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At an early period of the session a letter from the president was read to the Society, in wh?ch the unsatisfactory state of the law with regard to false pretences on the sale of goods was pointed out. The letter was referred to the Criminal Law Committee, and the subject was carefully considered by them. Although their report has not yet been formally brought before the Society, its substance has been stated by Mr. Hastings at a recent general meeting. According to that statement, the committee had found great difiiculty in coming to a decision, as to whether the law of false pretences should be extended to cases of sales of goods where there was a fraudulent representation as to quantity or quality; but, on the whole, they were of opinion that: where there was a false statement in these respects, with intent to defraud, it ought to be an indictable offence. The subject is well deserving the attention of the Society, and will no doubt receive their full consideration when brought before them.‘
‘ LAW on LUNACY.
Among the subjects which have been referred to committees, but have not yet been reported on, the Council would mention the law of lunacy. The committee appointed on this subject had made considerable progress in its inquiry into the defects of the present system, both with regard to lunatic patients in public and private asylums, and Chancery lunatics, when it was agreed to defer the further consideration of the matter until the Select Committee of the House of Commons should have issued their
report. The labours of the Select Committee having being cut‘
short by the dissolution, the evidence which had been taken was printed; but the Committee has been re-appointed during the present session, and further evidence will be taken. As soon as their final report has appeared, the committee of the Society will resume its inquiries.
1 Since the Annual Report was read, the report of the Criminal Law Committee on the matter above referred to has been brought before the Society.
The report was received and ordered to be printed, and will be further discussed during next session.
_ cononnns’ COURTS.
Another subject of great importance, on which a committee of the Society is still engaged, is that of Coroners’ Courts. The question was brought before the Society by Mr. Dempsy, in a. paper offering a variety of suggestions for re-modelling the whole system pursued in this ancient and useful court, and for extending the duties of the coroner. Among the few measures of law amendment which passed during the last brief session of Parliament, was an act to enable coroners to take‘ bail in cases of manslaughter, the evil arising from the inability of the coroner in such cases having been forcibly pointed out by Mr. Wakley at the meeting of the Society at which the paper now mentioned was read.
Among the papers read before the Society which have not yet been referred to, was one by Mr. E. Webster on the Consolidation of Judicial Decisions. It was resolved that the paper should be taken into consideration at a future meeting of the Society, and notice of certain resolutions in accordance with the paper was given. The object of these resolutions was to
take the opinion of the Society as to the expediency of discon-i
tinuing the present Statute Law Commission, and establishing in its stead, with the authority of the legislature, a duly quali-I. fied Board of Commissioners, whose exclusive duty should be the preparation, for the consideration of the legislature, of a digest of the whole body of the law, both written and unwritten. The Council having contemplated holding a public meeting on the subject of the consolidation of the statutes, it
was considered desirable that the resolutions should be brought‘
to the notice of the Society at that meeting, the matter being one of much public importance. The political events, however, to which reference has already been made, have prevented the proposed meeting being held; but, from the great interest which the Society has always taken in the question of consolidation generally, and from its great importance with reference to the amendment of the law, the Council will feel it to be their duty to watch for every favourable opportunity of bringing the matter to the attention of the legislature and the public.
In connection with this subject, the Council would state that they have much pleasure in learning from the recent report of the Statute Law Commission, that that body is now directing its efforts to the preparation of a register of existing statutes. On the merits of the particular mode of registration adopted by the Commission, the Council would not at present express any opinion, but would merely advert to the fact, coupled with the circumstance of no bill prepared by the Commission having yet received the sanction of the legislature, as fully justifying the views expressed by a Committee of this Society nearly four years ago, as to the necessity of a complete expurgation of the statute-book before proceeding to the work of consolidation. They would also mention that the example of the state of NewYork in the consolidation of its statutes, then appealed to by the Committee, has been referred to by the Commission in favour of the course which they have at length thought proper to adopt.
Among the papers submitted to the Society during the session, was one by Mr. Edgar, on the law relating to artistic copyright, in which the defects of the existing system with regard to the protection of the rights of artists, the assignment of copyright, and the legal proceedings by which redress may be obtained for piracy, were pointed out.
EXECUTORS AND TRUSTEES.
A valuable paper was also read by Mr. Harris, on the present position of Executors and Trustees, and offering suggestions for a provision for their relief. The plan proposed was, that all trustees who desire an investigation into the state of the trust fund, and all cestuis que trust who are dissatisfied with the administration of the trust estate, might, on petition to the Court of Chancery, have an investigation conducted in London before one of the masters, or one of the chief clerks belonging to the Court of Chancery, or in the country before one of the registrars of the Court of Bankruptcy ; and which master, chief clerk, or registrar, should make a report of the condition of such trust estate, and direct such proceedings to be taken for correcting errors, with regard to administration, as should appear desirable. The Society has not yet had an opportunity of eonsidering the merits of the scheme now mentioned. DIVORCE COURT.
An important communication was made to Lord ‘Brougham at an early period of the session, with regard to what appeared to his Lordship a defect in the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act, viz., the absence of any suiiicient security against the frauds which may be practised by parties acting in collusion to obtain a divorce. The subject has not yet been considered by the Society, but after the experience of the working of the new system which has now been obtained, it will be desirable, if no provision be made in the meantime by the legislature, that the matter should be investigated by the society during next session.
On the subject of legal education, the Council have much pleasure in stating that the Committee of the Inns of Court have reported to the benchers of the several societies in favour of an examination of students previous to admission to an Inn, and also in favour of a compulsory examination of students previous to being called to the bar. On the necessity of such examinations the Society has on several occasions expressed a strong opinion ; and the Council earnestly hope that the benchers will agree to adopt the above, together with the other recommendations contained in the report referred to.
In connection with this subject, the Council would also state that a resolution was carried after considerable discussion at a general meeting of this Society, recommending the abolition of the present rule of the different Inns of Court, requiring the
names of attorneys to be struck otl’ the rolls for three years before being called to the bar.
Although the Council have not the slightest hope of any important measure of law reform being carried during the present session of parliament, and although the state of popular feeling o_n the subject is for the present discouraging, it would yet be unwarrantable to have the smallest fear for the progress of that cause for which this Society has now laboured for sixteen years. The advantages which have resulted from those amendments of the law which have already taken place, have been so manifest, that no apprehension need be entertained that other and further improvements in our legal system will not be adopted as soon as the political circumstances of the country will permit. The magnitude of some recent changes in that system-——such as the establishment of the new Probate and Divorce Courts—which, though long delayed, were yet successfully carried at last, shows the height to which the tide has risen, and the force which it has acquired; nor is there any reason to doubt that it is still flowing, although the present is the period of the recoil of the wave. Subject, however, as the cause of law amendment must always more or less be to temporary checks, it is of great advantage to have such a Society as ours, pursuing its inquiries in season and out of season, and offering a continuing protest against all unjust and unequal laws. By its publications and meetings for the discussion of important questions; by the great authority and influence of its president; by the zeal and energy of many of its supporters, labouring in the various fields of inquiry which it embraces; and by its very list of members comprehending names from every influential class in this great and free community, it will still keep the cause alive through all political vicissitudes, and prepare the public mind for the wise and beneficial measures that are to be adopted in happier times.