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Metropolis Police Bill 1829


My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be committed. There can be no doubt that no branch connected with the administration of public justice in this country is so defective as the police. This is clearly proved by the great increase of crime in the metropolis. My Lords, it appears from the returns that in the last six years the total number of criminals committed for various offences has increased in the ratio of two-fifths. The commitments in London and Middlesex in 1822 were 2539; in 1825, 2902; in 1828, 3516. This proportion does not arise from the prevalence of any particular crime, but prevails in almost every species of crime perpetrated in the metropolis and its neighbouring districts during the same period. It is perfectly clear to all who have considered the subject, that this rapid increase of crime arises solely from the deficiency of the police. Your Lordships must know that the state of the watch in most of the parishes of the metropolis is most inefficient; indeed, nothing can possibly be more so. Yet though the state of the watch is thus confessedly inefficient, it has been well ascertained, from events which have been recently occurred, that the watch is exceedingly expensive to parishes, almost as expensive, I may say, as it is inefficient. It is, in fact, quite evident that the present system requires extensive alteration; for although crimes of all descriptions occur almost every night in various parishes of the metropolis, yet no effectual measures are taken to prevent the recurrence of such outrages. Indeed, a list might be formed of parishes in the neighbourhood of the metropolis where there is absolutely no protection for person or property. In the metropolis itself, in Westminster, where there is a watch in every parish, the system is so badly arranged that there is no co-operating communication between the watchmen of one parish and those of another; and even in the same parish there are, in many cases, different watch establishments governed by different local authorities. In one parish, St. Pancras, there are no fewer than eighteen different establishments, formed under different Acts of Parliament, not one of which has any communication with another. The consequence is, that the watchmen of one district are content with driving thieves from their own particular neighborhood into the adjoining district. Now, my Lords, I have no doubt whatever in my mind that it is perfectly practicable to prevent, in a very great degree, the commission of crimes by a new regulation of the police. Many of your Lordships must recollect what used to take place on the high roads in the neighborhood of this metropolis some years ago. Scarcely a carriage could pass without being robbed; and frequently the passengers were obliged to give battle to the highwaymen who infested the roads. Now, such a thing as a robbery committed by a man mounted on horseback is never heard of. To what is this change owing? Simply to an improvement in the police system; and by other improvements I am quite satisfied that it will be easy to establish, even in the city of London itself, a watch so framed as to prevent, in a very large degree, the commission of crime and outrage. There is another point to which I wish to call your Lordships' attention, and that is, the desire which so generally prevails throughout the country to diminish the number of capital punishments; and, indeed, to soften the severity of punishment in all cases. Now, it seems to me, my Lords, that the best way of avoiding the infliction of punishment, is to prevent the growth of crime; and we shall, I think, do much to prevent the growth of crime and the consequent necessity of punishment, by placing an efficient police in the hands of the magistrate. The measure before your Lordships is intended to effect this object: it forms a new police-office for the metropolis and the surrounding districts, which, under the powers of the proposed Bill, will have the whole direction of the new police, two justices being appointed to carry on the business of the office, under the Secretary of State for the Home Department. My Lords, the provisions of the Bill may, if circumstances render it necessary, be extended to places in the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Hertford, Sussex, and Kent, not enumerated in the schedule, to the distance of twelve miles from Charing-cross. The justices to be appointed will have no power beyond what is necessary to protect the peace of the country, and to carry this measure into effect. It is proposed by the Bill that a body of constables shall be raised, who will be placed under the special protection of this office. The expenses will be defrayed by a rate, levied in the same way as the Poor-rates, but not to exceed 8d. in the pound.

Bill read a second time, and committed.

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