HC Deb 05 October 1831 vol 8 cc1-4
Mr. O'Connell

presented a Petition from four Labourers in the County of Cork, complaining of the conduct of certain Magistrates, and of the administration of Justice at the Petty Sessions (Ireland). He thought the petitioners made out so strong a case, that had it happened on this side of the Channel it would have produced more petitions than the case of the Deacles. The petitioners represented, that they were the tenants of a Mr. Macarthy, and that an information was laid against them for feeding cattle upon their own land; for which offence they were brought before two Magistrates, one of whom was a curate of the Established Church, and fined 5l. and costs. The petitioners declared their intention to appeal against the order, when the Magistrates made them enter into recognizances, and seized their cattle for payment of the expenses, which they afterwards recovered, on account of the illegality of the proceeding. They were then charged with an assault upon a person of the name of Collins, put forward as the prosecutor, on which charge they were acquitted. They then wished to prosecute the informer Collins for perjury, but were baffled by a variety of legal expedients, and sustained great hardship and expense. These ill-used men had travelled 600 miles in search of justice, but obtained only injustice. They complained particularly of the partiality of the Magistrates. He believed that these statements were founded in fact, and as the conduct of two Magistrates were impugned, he wished to give his hon. and learned friend, the Solicitor General for Ireland, an opportunity to inquire into the facts.

Mr. Crampton

said, he had seen the petition before, and had made some inquiries into the circumstances through a private channel, but without communicating with the Magistrates who were the parties accused, and he was inclined to think, the petitioners were themselves much in fault as well as the man Collins, with whom they were at variance on a point of disputed possession. One of the petitioners had been found guilty of an assault upon that person, and it was from a sworn information relating to this assault that the petitioners desired to indict Collins for perjury. The Judge refused to try the cause, and sent it to the Sessions, and there the Grand Jury threw out the bill. He had reason to believe Collins was exonerated on the merits of the case itself, and not from any technical difficulty. From all his inquiries he had reason to believe that no case of corruption could be made out against the Magistrates.

Sir Robert Bateson

was of opinion, that these petitions were brought in, night after night, for the particular purpose of traducing the conduct of the Irish Magistrates, and keeping up excitement. He believed on the whole, the laws were as justly administered as in this country, and he spoke as an Irish Magistrate.

Mr. Hunt

said, one good effect was caused by these discussions. They made the law officers of the Crown inquire into the cases of alleged misconduct on the part of the Irish Magistrates. He should be happy if the same course was followed in this country.

Mr. Estcourt

considered the insinuations of the hon. member for Preston most uncalled for. He had no doubt, if any case of oppression could be made out in England, however humble were the suffering parties, that the law officers of the Crown would promptly attend to it.

Petition laid on the Table.

Mr. O'Connell

moved, that it should be printed. He thought he had some reason to complain that his statements had not been duly attended to. He had no doubt from the information of the attorney of the petitioners, that the facts could be distinctly proved. The report upon the face of it evidently shewed a neglect of duty on the part of the Magistrates.

Mr. Blackney

said, the two statements, like those on most Irish questions, differed so completely, and were so much mixed up with partizanship, that there was great difficulty in deciding upon either of them. The great ground of complaint respecting the Irish magistracy was, that there were too many churchmen among them, he did not believe they were personally corrupt, but he heard with great satisfaction there was to be some change in the system.

Mr. Henry Grattan

said, so long as there were grievances to redress, he for one should make complaints; but what he wished at present to bring before the House was, the custom of giving blank summonses by many Irish Magistrates to persons who did by no means deserve such confidence. He had seen cases of great oppression growing out of this practice.

Sir Francis Burdett

said, such a practice was evidently liable to abuse, and ought to be wholly put an end to. He fully believed, from several cases recently brought before the House, that a complete revision was required with respect, to the constitution of the Irish magistracy.

Petition to be printed.

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