HC Deb 11 July 1831 vol 4 cc1024-6
Mr. O'Connell

wished to ask the right hon. Gent, the Secretary for Ireland, whether it was intended to allow the friends of the parties who suffered in the late affray at Castle-Pollard, to prosecute at their own expense? He understood they had made application for leave to do so, and by permitting this, there would be a saving of public money, and no fear of failure of justice by any attempt at compromise.

Mr. Stanley

said, that in a case of this kind it was impossible for the Government to pursue any course which would not expose them to censure. The hon. and learned member for Dublin called upon him on the subject, and he referred him to the Attorney General for Ireland, and to the Chancellor for Ireland. Their opinion was, that the Government ought not to abandon its position as public prosecutor. The relatives, however, and friends of those who suffered, would be at liberty to employ counsel, and bring forward witnesses. Every facility would be given for the examination of any evidence they might think proper to bring forward.

Mr. Lefroy

thought the determination of the Crown Counsel to act as public prosecutors quite right, and the admission of other prosecutors would be a disparagement to the Crown and to the Irish Government. He saw no reason why the Government alone should not carry on the prosecution. The line proposed was inconvenient and unbecoming. It would go far to excite suspicion and distrust. In the Borris-o'-kane prosecution this course had been proposed, but it was resisted by the Solicitor-general, who, in the exercise of his discretion, brought forward witnesses, although they were favourable to the defendants, and he was right. The Crown, in its own behalf, brought forward all the witnesses that were necessary for the proper elucidation of the case. He considered, that the line now recommended was both inconvenient and unnecessary.

Mr. Sheil

said, the hon. member for the University of Dublin was mistaken in saying that the practice had been uniformly to exclude auxiliary Counsel, where the Crown prosecutes. Lord Plunkett, when Attorney-General, always allowed the relatives to employ Counsel, to co-operate, and to take a direct and active part in (he trials. The present Chief Baton (Mr. Joy) made a different rule. In consequence of that rule, the Counsel employed by the relatives were only allowed to suggest at the trials respecting the Borriso'-kane transactions, to which the hon. Gentleman had referred—but there the Attorney-general had given the people the right to elect whether they would conduct the case or not. The Attorney-General was for restoring Lord Plunkett's rule. The best course was, he thought, to allow the relatives of the deceased to manage the case, when they thought proper to defray the expenses. A police-officer was tried for homicide at Carrick-on-Suir. The trial was conducted by the relatives. There was an acquittal, and there were no murmurs amongst the people. This showed the expediency of permitting the relatives of parties who had fallen in an affray, to take such course as they might deem most advisable. Justice might not be better administered, but unpleasant suspicions would be avoided.

The House then resolved itself into a Committee.