Criminal justice

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Criminal justice is the system of practices and institutions of governments directed at upholding social control, deterring and mitigating crime, and sanctioning those who violate laws with criminal penalties and rehabilitation efforts. The rights of the accused are rights that protect those accused of crime.


  • My opinion of the liberty of the press is that every man ought to be permitted to instruct his fellow subjects; that every man may fearlessly advance any new doctrines, provided he does so with proper respect to the religion and government of the country; that he may point out errors in the measures of public men; but he must not impute criminal conduct to them. The liberty of the press cannot be carried to this extent without violating another equally sacred right; namely, the right of character. This right can only be attacked in a court of justice, where the party attacked has a fair opportunity of defending himself
    • William Best: The King v. Burdett, Reports of State Trials, New Series, I, 49, 118 f.; Sources of English Constitutional History, Stephenson & Marcham
  • Some of these men have issued statements attempting to apologize and take responsibility. Weinstein checked into rehab, and reportedly was hoping for a second chance in Hollywood. And after the dust settles and these men spend a few months or a years out of the spotlight, some of them will undoubtedly attempt returns to their previous positions.
    Before they do, we must reckon with the questions of forgiveness, rehabilitation and redemption. Can these men be redeemed? And what does redemption — or just forgiveness — look like?
    For those of us who care about social justice (and legal justice), these are crucial concepts. While the American criminal justice system is largely punitive, liberals are always pushing to make it more focused on rehabilitation and to help offenders successfully re-enter society — and for society to welcome them back. We criticize the prison system, the industrialization of prisons and the financial incentives they create to increase incarceration rates. We oppose the disenfranchisement of felons. We want to “ban the box,” so that people who have served their time do not need to disclose on college or job applications that they’ve been incarcerated. Some of us (myself included) oppose post-release punishments, including overly broad sex offender registries and laws barring certain categories of sex offenders from living in many places. The result of these laws is that many of these offenders end up unemployed and homeless.

The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904)[edit]

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer
Quotes reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, The Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 59-68.
  • Felony stands on a very different ground from misdemeanour; and the assertion that a misdemeanour can be tried in that county alone wherein any part of it was committed, appears to me to have been built upon a mistake of the true ground and reason of the doctrine in felony.
    • Abbott, C.J., King v. Burdett (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 147.
  • The true ground of the doctrine in felony is this: if a felony be compounded of two distinct acts, one of which takes place in one county and the other in another county, the concurrence of both being necessary to constitute the felony, the party may not be triable in either, because, ex hypothesi, there is no felony committed in either.
    • Abbott, C.J., King v. Burdett (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 148.
  • It has been solemnly decided that there is no difference between the rules of evidence in civil and criminal cases. If the rules of evidence prescribe the best course to get at truth, they must be and are the same in all cases and in all civilized countries.
    • Best, J., King v. Burdett (1820), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 113.
  • I think that a man who has been guilty of an indictable offence ought not to have the assistance of the law to recover the profits of his crime; and that whether his agents be innocent or criminal, privy or not privy, his claim against those agents is equally inadmissible in a Court of law.
    • Booke, J., Farmer v. Russell (1798), 2 Bos. & Pull. 301.
  • Judges should be, and I believe generally are, careful not to allow proof of other acts of the prisoner besides those the subject of the indictment to be given, unless those acts have a clear bearing on some issue raised by the indictment.
    • Channell, J., Reg. v. Ollis (1900), L. R. 2 Q. B. D. [1900], p. 782.
  • We must follow the old authorities and precedents in criminal matters.
  • There are certain irregularities which are not the subject of criminal law. But when the criminal law happens to be auxiliary to the law of morality, I do not feel any inclination to explain it away.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., Young and others v. The King (1789), 3 T. R. 102.
  • Really I wish I was more acquainted than I am, with the course of criminal jurisdiction—if the question had never been decided, I should have extreme doubts upon it, and those extreme doubts which I should have would lead me in a criminal case to do otherwise than I should do in a civil case—in every civil case [I speak in the hearing of a great many professional gentlemen] wherever I have serious doubts, I follow the doctrine which I have collected to be laid down by Lord Hardwicke; I receive the evidence, giving the jury the best instruction I can upon the effect of it; and I do it in the case of civil proceedings, without running the risk of doing any hurt, because if I receive it improperly, a season will come when the Court can correct my error.
    • Lord Kenyon, Stone's Case (1796), 25 How. St. Tr. 1272.
  • A conviction is in the nature of a verdict and judgment, and therefore it must be precise and certain.
  • I take it that the judgment is an essential point in every conviction, let the punishment be fixed or not.
  • The natural leaning of our minds is in favour of prisoners; and in the mild manner in which the laws of this country are executed, it has rather been a subject of complaint by some that the Judges have given way too easily to mere formal objections2 on behalf of prisoners, and have been too ready on slight grounds to make favourable representations of their cases. Lord Hale himself, one of the greatest and best men who ever sat in judgment, considered this extreme facility as a great blemish, owing to which more offenders escaped than by the manifestation of their innocence." We must, however, take care not to carry this disposition too far, lest we loosen the bands of society, which is kept together by the hope of reward, and the fear of punishment. It has been always considered, that the Judges in our foreign possessions abroad were not bound by the rules of proceeding in our Courts here. Their laws are often altogether distinct from our own. Such is the case in India and other places. On appeals to the Privy Council from our colonies, no formal objections are attended to, if the substance of the matter or the corpus delicti sufficiently appear to enable them to get at the truth and justice of the case.
  • Justice requires that a party should be duly summoned and fully heard before he is condemned.
  • I once before had occasion to refer to the opinion of a most eminent Judge, who was a great Crown lawyer, upon the subject, I mean Lord Hale; who even in his time lamented the too great strictness which had been required in indictments, and which had grown to be a blemish and inconvenience in the law; and observed that more offenders escaped by the over easy ear given to exceptions in indictments than by their own innocence.
  • There is no difference between civil and criminal cases as to evidence; whatever is proper evidence in one case is in the other. With respect to criminal cases, if there is any doubt, one would lean in favour of a defendant, for the reason mentioned by my lord yesterday, because that is not to be set right afterwards.
    • Laurence, J., Stone's Case (1796), 25 How. St. Tr. 1314.
  • It is the pride of our laws to labour more for the acquittal than the conviction of the accused, however black the allegations of offence.
    • George, B., Redmond's Case (1803), 28 How. St. Tr. 1313.
  • God forbid that the defendant should not be allowed the benefit of every advantage he is entitled to by law.
    • Lord Mansfield, Case of John Wilkes (1763), 4 Burr. Part IV., p. 2539.
  • In a criminal case I can presume nothing.
  • In criminal cases you always begin by proving the corpus delicti, and then connect the prisoner with it.
  • It is abominable to convict a man behind his back.
    • Holt, C.J., The Queen v. Dyer (1703), 6 Mod. 41.
  • The laws of God and man both give the party an opportunity to make his defence, if he has any. I remember to have heard it observed by a very learned man upon such an occasion, that even God himself did not pass sentence upon Adam before he was called upon to make his defence. Adam (says God), where art thou? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the same question was put to Eve also.
    • Fortescue, J., The King v. Chancellor, &c. of the University of Cambridge (1723), 1 Str. 566.
  • Without resorting to authorities in a plain case, the common sense and feeling of mankind, the voice of nature, reason, and revelation, all concur in this plain rule, That no man is to be condemned unheard; and consequently no trial ought to proceed to the condemnation of a man who by the providence of God is rendered totally incapable of speaking for himself, or of instructing others to speak for him.
    • Foster, J., Sir John Wedderburn's Case (1746), Foster's Cr. Ca. 34, 35.
  • I take it to be contrary to the first principles of English jurisprudence and English law that a man should be condemned unheard.
    • Brett, J., Lovering v. Dawson, No. 1 (1875), L. R. 10 C. P. 722.
  • It is necessary to the administration of justice that every person who is accused of a crime should have an opportunity of being heard in his defence against the charge of which he is accused.
    • Lord Kenyon, C.J., The King v. Justices of Surrey (1794), 6 T. R. 78.
  • It is of the essence of justice not to decide against any one on grounds which are not charged against him, and as to which he has not had an opportunity of offering explanations or calling evidence.
    • Lord Blackburn, O'Rorke v. Bolinghroke (1877), L. R. 2 Ap. Ca. 834.
  • It is certain that natural justice requires that no man shall be condemned without notice.
    • Fortescue, J., R. v. Cleg (1735), 1 Str. 475.
  • There must be an opportunity given to every person before judgment is passed upon him of being heard in his defence, and it is essential that the charge should always be intimated to the supposed delinquent.
    • Lord Campbell, G.J., Bartlett v. Kirwood (1853), 23 L. J. Rep. (N. S.) Part 1, Q. B. p. 13.
  • Every man ought to have the fullest opportunity of establishing his innocence if he can.
    • Hawkins, J., Queen v. Dennis (1894), L. R. 2 Q. B. D. [1894], p. 480.
  • Would to God you were innocent, that is the worst wish I wish you.
    • Jefferies, L.C.J., Hampden's Case (1684), 9 How. St. Tr. 1104.
  • The word " innocent" hath a double acceptation, innocent in respect of malice, and innocent in respect of the fact.
    • Bridgman, L.C.B., Lilburn's Case (1660), 5 How. St. Tr. 1205.
  • God forbid that the rights of the innocent should be lost and destroyed by the offence of individuals.
    • Wilmot, J., Mayor, &c. of Colchester v. Seaber (1765), 3 Burr. Part IV. 1871.
  • As anger does not become a Judge, so neither doth pity; for one is the mark of a foolish woman, as the other is of a passionate man.
    • Scroggs, C.J., King v. Johnson (1794), 2 Shower, 5.
  • If his sorrow was honest and sincere it may go very far in mitigation.
  • It is an invariable maxim in our law that no man shall be punished before he has had an opportunity of being heard.
    • Rex v. Benn and another (1795), 6 T. R. 198.
  • This Court will always know to temper mercy with justice where there is room for it.
  • We sit here in this Court of Queen's Bench under the same obligation as the Queen holds her Crown, to administer justice with mercy according to the laws of the land.
    • Pennefaiher, L.C.J., Queen v. O'Connell and others (1843), 5 St. Tr. (N. S.) p. 592.
  • In all cases whatever it is usual for either plaintiff or defendant to speak by their counsel. You are assisted by a most able counsel, and you would not be guilty of any impropriety if what you wish to offer to the Court were first suggested to him, for he would then determine of the propriety of suggesting it to the Court.
    • Barrington, J., Case of the Dean of St. Asaph (1783), 21 How. St. Tr. 876.
  • You have a right to discourse with your counsel, but you must do it in such a manner as the jury may not hear.
    • John Pratt, C.J., Layer's Case (1722), 16 How. St. Tr. 177.
  • Wise and practical regulations must contemplate and provide for the occasional oversights and inadvertences which, by the law of chances, are certain to happen among the thousands of criminal trials before all sorts of jurisdictions every year in England.
    • Bytes, J., Reg. v. Mellor (1858), 5 Cox, C. C. 482.
  • I agree with Mr. Pitt Taylor that, in many of the cases, justice and common sense have been sacrificed,8 but not, as it appears to me, at the shrine of mercy—rather at the shrine of guilt, because I regard a wrongful acquittal as unmerciful to the prisoner, whose real interests are sacrificed by his escape, as well as to society.
    • Erie, J., Reg. v. Baldry (1852), 5 Cox, C. C. 531.
  • Every human tribunal ought to take care to administer justice, as we look hereafter to have justice administered to ourselves.
    • The Hon. Thomas Erskine, Stockdale's Case (1789), 22 How. St. Tr. 283.
  • You will understand one thing, and that is, that having been acquitted, you have no right to address one word either to the Court or the jury. At the same time, I do not wish to hold you strictly to that right ; but conduct yourself properly, and I will not stop you.
    • Eyre, L.C.J., Tooke's Case (1794), 25 How. St. Tr. 746.
  • We cannot hear the client and counsel too, it is against all rules.
    • Richards, L.C.B., in Edmonds and others (1821), 1 St. Tr. (N. S.) 863.
  • Justice and common sense seem to have been sacrificed on the shrine of mercy.
    • Taylor on Evidence, 597.
  • The law of England is anxious for the interests of persons against whom charges may be made. If a man commits a crime, there is a legal and constitutional mode by which that crime may be brought into discussion. He is liable to be tried, but though his crime may be as great and as aggravated as possible, he ought to have a full, fair, dispassionate, and temperate investigation of his conduct at the time of trial.
  • It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.
  • Minatur innocentibus, qui pareit nocentibus: He threatens the innocent who spares the guilty.
    • 4 Co. 45.
  • I am of the same opinion with the Roman who, in the case of Catiline, declared he had rather ten guilty persons should escape than one innocent should suffer.
    • Sir Ed. Seymour, counsel for prisoner, Sir John Fenwick's Case (1696), 13 How. St. Tr. 565.
  • Unless civil institutions ensure protection to the innocent, all the confidence which mankind should have in them would be lost.
    • Boswell's Life of Johnson, Vol. 2, p. 473, 1st ed.
  • The escape of one delinquent can never produce so much harm to the community as may arise from the infraction of a rule upon which the purity of public justice and the existence of civil liberty essentially depend.
    • Archdeacon Paley, Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, Bk. 6, c. 8.
  • The criminal law ought to be reasonable and intelligible.
    • Martin, B., The Queen v. Middleton (1873), L. R. 2 Crown Ca. Res. 57.
  • There are frequently things sworn to which are so improbable that one does not believe them. It is one of the commonest things in the world in a criminal case to have the most positive oral evidence given on oath to establish a matter which neither the jury nor the Judge can believe, although it is sworn to.
    • Lord Blackburn, Gardner v. Gardner (1877), L. R. 2 App. Ca. 738.
  • In a criminal proceeding the question is not alone whether substantial justice has been done, but whether justice has been done according to law. All proceedings in poenam are, it need scarcely be observed, strictissimi juris; nor should it be forgotten that the formalities of law, though here and there they may lead to the escape of an offender, are intended on the whole to insure the safe administration of justice and the protection of innocence, and must be observed. A party accused has the right to insist on them as matter of right, of which he cannot be deprived against his will; and the Judge must see that they are followed.
  • Running away from justice, must always be considered an evidence of guilt.
    • Clerk, L.J., Muir's Case (1793), 23 How. St. Tr. 230.
  • Flight, in criminal cases, is itself a crime. If an innocent man flies for treason or felony, he forfeits all his goods and chattels. Outlawry, in a capital case, is as a conviction for the crime: And many men who never were tried have been executed upon the outlawry.
  • Flight, or an escape from arrest for felony, is an acknowledgment of guilt . . . every man, who is accused, is bound to submit himself to the judgment of the law; and, whether it be a trespass, or whether it be a felony with which he is charged, it may, with truth, be said of him who shrinks from trial—facinus fatetur qui judicium fugit.
    • Day, J., Johnson's Case (1805), 29 How. St. Tr. 192.
  • He who flees judgment confesses his guilt.
    • 3 Inst. 14.
  • The duty to prosecute, or not to prosecute, is a social and not a legal duty, which depends on the circumstances of each case. It cannot be said that it is a moral duty to prosecute in all cases. The matter depends on considerations, which vary according to each case. But the person who has to act is bound morally to be influenced by no indirect motive. He is morally bound to bring a fair and honest mind to the consideration and to exercise his decision from a sense of duty to himself and others.
    • Bowen, L.J., Jones v. Merionethshire Permanent Benefit Building Society (1891), L. R. 1 C. D. [1892], p. 183.
  • It is to the interest of the public that the suppression of a prosecution should not be made matter of private bargain.
    • Erie, C.J., Clubb v. Hutson (1865), L. R. 18 C. B. Rep. (N. S.) 417.
  • If people with the very best intentions carry on prosecutions that are oppressive, the end may not always perhaps sanctify the means.
    • Lord Kenyon, Williams' Case (1797), 26 How. St. Tr. 704.
  • Shall we indict one man for making a fool of another?
    • Holt, C.J., Reg. v. Jones (1703), 2 Raym. 1013.
  • I do not approve of indicting, where there is another remedy: it carries the appearance of oppression.
  • You shall have the laws of England, although you refuse to own them in not holding up your hand; for the holding up of the hand hath been used as a part of the law of England these five hundred years.
    • Keble, C.J., Lilburne's Case (1649), 4 How. St. Tr. 1330.
  • The law is plain, that you are positively to answer, guilty, or not guilty, which you please.
    • Keble, C.J., Lilburne's Case (1649), 4 How. St. Tr. 1293.
  • He that doth refuse to put himself upon his legal trial of God and the Country, is a mute in law; and therefore you must plead guilty or not guilty. Let his language be what it will, he is a mute in law.
    • Bridgman, L.C.B., Axtel's Case (1660), 5 How. St. Tr. 1007.
  • Truly I think it one of the most reasonable laws in the world, that a man be tried by his county, by the neighbourhood ; and it has given ground to a good English proverb: "He that has an ill-name, is half hanged."* A man's repute among his neighbours goes a great way in this matter, when his neighbours shall say they never knew ill by him.
    • Keating, L.C.J., Case of John Price and others (1689), 12 How. St. Tr. 626.
  • Nothing could be of worse consequence, than that an officer of the Court should combine with a criminal to frustrate the sentence of the Court.
    • Wilmot, J., Rex v. Beardmore (1759), 2 Burr. Part IV., p. 175.
  • He that hath an ill name is half hang'd ye know.
    • J. Heywood, "Proverbs," Bk. II. c. vi.
  • A conviction must be good in all its parts; the information must be supported by the evidence, and the judgment must be supported by both.
    • Per Cur., King v. Salomons (1786), 1 T. R. 251.

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