HC Deb 06 March 1835 vol 26 cc590-6
Mr. O'Dwyer

presented a Petition from an individual of the name of Ryan Henessey, residing in the county of Carlow, and complaining of the oppressive treatment which he had experienced from certain magistrates in that county. The petition stated, that on the night of Saturday, the 24th of January last, after the petitioner had gone to bed, a driver belonging to Mr. Kavanagh, a Member of that House, accompanied by a party of police, knocked at his door, and stated that the priest of the parish wanted to see him; that the petitioner, on opening his door in consequence of this message, was immediately seized and handcuffed by order of the driver, and that he was then dragged to the guardhouse, where he was put in irons, and where he remained handcuffed during that night and the following Sunday. The petitioner further alleged, that he was arrested without any summons having been previously served upon him, and without any warrant having been issued for his apprehension. He also stated, that a person offered to become security for his appearance, but that on his inquiring of the Magistrate, who was a Mr. Doyne, what amount of security would be required, Mr. Doyne called him a ruffian, and threatened to send him to the county gaol. In conclusion, the petitioner alleged, that he could not expect justice from the Bench of Magistrates at Carlow, as Mr. Doyne was one of them, and with another constituted the whole Bench. He had to present another petition from Thomas Butler and his wife, complaining of the misconduct of the same Mr. Doyne.

Colonel Bruen

begged to interrupt the hon. Member. The first petition presented by the hon. Member was not signed. There was only a mark attached to it, and it was not vouched by anybody that that mark was the mark of the petitioner. The authenticity of this petition should be established before it could be received, inasmuch as it contained allegations of a most serious nature against the character of a Magistrate. For his own part he did not believe that there was the slightest foundation for any of the charges which the petitioner had made against Mr. Doyne.

Mr. O'Dwyer

said, that the petitions had come to him in the usual way, but in consequence of what had just fallen from the hon. and gallant Member, he must now add that they had come to him recommended and confirmed by a gentleman of unquestioned honour and respectability. For his own part, he firmly believed that every allegation in the petition could be substantiated.

The Speaker

said, it appeared that the petitioner was not able to write, but that his mark was attached to the petition. Now, the question for the House to decide, was, whether the man was to be deprived of his right of petition because he could not write?

Mr. Roebuck

said, that the signature of a petitioner was not a stronger proof of the authenticity of a petition than his mark would be. The House had no better means of ascertaining the authenticity of a signature than it had of ascertaining the authenticity of a mark. Why, then, should they place obstacles in the way of the poor unlettered man, who had already difficulty enough in getting his petition put into a shape in which it could be presented to them, when they removed the same obstacles out of the way of the rich man, who found no difficulty in petitioning?

Sir John Campbell.

The petition is already signed, for a man may sign by his mark. That is admitted to be a signature in every Court of Law. You are bound to give credit to it as a man's signature, until the contrary is shown.

Mr. Littleton

said, that to the petitions which had been received and printed last year there were the names of at least a hundred thousand marksmen attached. It was not many hundred years since Members on entering that House, made their marks, in consequence of their being unable to write their names.

Mr. Ewart

observed, that what had been stated by the hon. Gentleman who presented the petitions was quite sufficient to authenticate them; and the objection which had been made to them ought not to enter into the equitable consideration of the House.

Mr. Kavanagh

contended, that there ought to be some voucher to prove the genuineness of the petitioner's mark. It there were no attestation attached to it any man might libel the character of another in that House with impunity. He believed, that the allegations of the petitioner were all false, especially those which reflected on that respectable magistrate Mr. Doyne.

Mr. O'Dwyer

thought that when the hon. Member for the county of Carlow rose, he was going to propose the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the charges which the petitioner brought against Mr. Doyne, the Magistrate. That would have been the most proper and manly way to meet the charge, and do justice to the petitioner. If the hon. Member would propose that course, he would undertake that every allegation in the petition should be proved. He had received the petition from a source of the highest respectability, and the House was bound to believe the allegations of it till they were disproved by some better evidence than mere assertion.

Petition laid on the Table.

Mr. D. O'Dwyer

presented a Petition from Thomas Butler and Judith his wife, of the county of Carlow. The petition complained, that on Saturday, the night of the 24th of January, after they had retired to rest, a party of police, accompanied by the under agent of Thomas Kavanagh, Esq., a Member of that House, had called at their cottage, dragged them out of their bed and conveyed them to Borris, where they were kept in confinement the remainder of the night, and the whole of the following day; that Judith, one of the petitioners, was the mother of seven children, one of whom was dangerously ill; that she requested to be left with the sick child till morning, and promised to be ready at that time to meet any charge which might be preferred against her; that she was forced from the embraces of her children, and compelled to accompany her husband; and that she was imprisoned with him in a dungeon for the time already mentioned, on a charge which she did not know. The petition further stated, that when the reverend John Walsh inquired of the police serjeant by what authority he had arrested the petitioners, he replied that he had not had any warrant, but that he had arrested them on the order of Mr. Doyne, the Magistrate, and of Mr. Hawkshawe, the chief of the police. The petition added, that Mr. Doyne, was an agent of Mr. Kavanagh, at a salary of 80l. or 100l. a-year, and that he was harsh, vindictive, and oppressive as a Magistrate. He would not enter into a description of the other charges which the petitioners brought against Mr. Doyne; but the circumstances, if true, were of a nature to challenge the immediate attention of the Irish Government. As to Mr. Doyne, who was spoken of in this manner, he would mention one fact, which he had upon the authority of a gentleman to whom he was sure the House would give implicit credit—he meant Mr. Vigors, who represented Carlow in the last Parliament. Mr. Vigors had told him that he was an eye-witness to this circumstance. Two persons were brought before the bench, on which Mr. Doyne was sitting, as a Magistrate. One of them, a woman, was charged with having excited a tumult, and was sentenced to pay a fine of 20s. A warrant had been issued against the other, who was in Mr. Kavanagh's employ, for an aggravated assault. He was proved to have struck another person on the head with a stone, and for this he was fined 5s. Now, let the house mark the difference in the sentence on these two cases. The woman was fined 20s., who had committed no assault, and had been guilty of no actual breach of the peace, whilst the moan was fined 5s. who had committed a savage assault, and had been guilty of a gross breach of the peace. But this was not all. This very respectable Magistrate, Mr. Doyne, who had adjudicated on the case, had had the indecency on the bench to pay the fine of the latter offender. He implored the House to consider what hope could the people have of justice from a bench of which such a Magistrate composed a part? He would not use delicate phrases on a subject like this; but he would openly call on the right hon. Secretary for Ireland, if he could obtain his attention for a moment, to investigate this transaction, and, if it were proved to be of the nature which he had stated, to remove this Magistrate from the commission of the peace.

Mr. Kavanagh

said, that among other phrases which he had heard the hon. Member for Drogheda utter he had distinguished this—"If this case be proved." He (Mr. Kavanagh) would use that phrase too. He would say—"If this case can be proved." But it could not; for the information on which the hon. Member was proceeding was in every respect incorrect. In short, the only reply he should give was, that the charge was wholly and perfectly false.

Colonel Bruen

was far from hushing up inquiry, like the hon. and learned Member for Drogheda, he challenged the fullest investigation into the allegations of the petition. He was sure that upon a proper and full investigation the allegations would be discovered to be wholly unfounded. He must observe, at the same time, that it was most extraordinary that it should be proposed to investigate these matters here, instead of leaving them to the proper tribunals in Ireland. As to the charges contained in the last petition, he knew nothing about them; but this he did know, that Mr. Doyne was incapable of acting in any manner unbecoming a Magistrate and a gentleman. He again repeated that the Courts of Law were the proper tribunals for the investigation of charges like these, and that Magistrates ought not to be ruthlessly dragged before that House upon allegations which must circulate to their disadvantage until they were refuted.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, that if the hon. Member for Drogheda had previously informed him of his intention to bring forward such a charge against a Magistrate, he would have been prepared to meet it; but as the hon. Gentleman had not acquainted him with the allegations beforehand, he could only refer the matter for inquiry to the authorities at Dublin. It was due to the accused Magistrate to state, that from what he (Sir H. Hardinge) had heard of his character, there could be little doubt that he would be able to give a satisfactory explanation of the transaction.

Mr. O'Connell

thought, that much would depend on the quarter in which the inquiry should be made. He had little doubt that if the right hon. Secretary, or any individual who would act with equal fairness, took the matter up, the charge would be established. This was the conclusion at which he had arrived. The matter seemed quite susceptible of legal evidence; and any man acquainted with Ireland would think few things impossible of Carlow Magistrates.

Sir Henry Hardinge

said, he should have been happy to let the inquiry proceed in due course of law, rather than have it taken up by the Government; but as the hon. Member had suggested the latter course, he was ready to concur in it.

Mr. O'Dwyer

would undertake, if the right hon. Secretary supplied the money, that the transaction should be brought before a Court of Justice. The right hon. Gentleman must know that individuals in the situation of the petitioner, could not go into Court without assistance.

Colonel Evans

complained of the bias that operated upon the minds of most of the Magistracy of Ireland. From what he knew of recent occurrences in the County of Carlow, his impression was, that probably the Magistrate would not come clear out of the inquiry.

Mr. Shaw

thought that when a serious charge was brought against an individual holding a public office, the accusation ought to rest upon the authority of some person who could be held responsible for its correctness; but this was not the case here; no name was signed to the petition: there was nothing but a mark, and no attestation that this was the mark of the person in whose name the petition was drawn up. The individual could not read the statements made in his name, and might never have heard them read. He knew one of the supposed facts stated in the petition to be untrue, and hence the House might, perhaps, judge of the rest. It was asserted that Mr. Doyne was the agent to Mr. Kavanagh, and had no property to qualify him to sit as a Magistrate, when the truth was, that Mr. Doyne had necessarily sworn to a qualification of 600l a-year before he could sit on the Road Sessions. He was personally acquainted with Mr. Doyne, and a worthier or more respectable man did not exist. He agreed that the charge should be thoroughly investigated.

The petitions were laid upon the Table.