A veritable revolution: the Court of Criminal Appeal in English criminal history 1908-1958
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In a historic speech to the House of Commons on April 17, 1907, British Attorney General, John Lawson Walton, proposed the formation of what was to be the first court of criminal appeal in English history. Such a court had been debated, but ultimately rejected, by successive governments for over half a century. In each debate, members of the judiciary declared that a court for appeals in criminal cases held the potential of destroying the world-respected English judicial system. The 1907 debates were no less contentious, but the newly elected Liberal government saw social reform, including judicial reform, as their highest priority. After much compromise and some of the most overwrought speeches in the history of Parliament, the Court of Criminal Appeal was created in August 1907 and began hearing cases in May 1908. A Veritable Revolution is a social history of the Court's first fifty years. There is no doubt, that John Walton and the other founders of the Court of Criminal Appeal intended it to provide protection from the miscarriage of justice for English citizens convicted of criminal offenses. The Court was certainly hard won and worthy of abundant praise, but its organization would prove problematic and, at times, horribly detrimental for over fifty years. From its inception, the Court was under the complete control of the highest-ranking permanent member of the English judiciary, the Lord Chief Justice. Therefore, the quality of the Court and the practical application of its principals were intertwined with the character of a single individual. If the Lord Chief Justice understood and accepted the ideology on which the Court was founded, the Court of Criminal Appeal was indeed the tremendous asset to English justice of which Walton spoke in 1907. But if the Lord Chief Justice, for whatever reason, believed that an English citizen convicted of a crime had no rights, then the Court of Criminal Appeal was turned on its head and did not prevent, but in fact helped create miscarriages of justice so profound that it would take another fifty years to correct them.
Table of Contents
A clear and temperate speech -- The Lord Chief Justice's court -- The reign of Lord Chief Justice Goddard -- Epilogue -- Appendix