HC Deb 23 February 1846 vol 83 cc1392-4

put the following questions to the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department:—1st. Will there be any objection to lay before the House the correspondence between the most rev. Dr. Cantwell, the Catholic bishop, and his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, on the subject of Bryan Seery, who has been lately executed at Mullingar? 2nd. Whether a deputation, consisting of several persons, waited on His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant, after the conviction and before the execution of Bryan Seery, to pray that the convict should not be respited, or his sentence transmuted, but that he should be executed? 3rd. To ask whether there be any instance in England, for the last century, of any person being tried for any capital felony by a second jury, after the first jury was discharged by the court, at the same session or assizes, and convicted and executed? and if so, state the time, place, and name of the individual.


With respect to the first question, I can say on the part of the Government, that there will be no difficulty whatever in laying on the Table of the House the correspondence to which that question refers. In answer to the second question, I have to inform the hon. and learned Gentleman, that a deputation from the county of Westmeath did wait upon the Lord Lieutenant before the execution of Seery, and made, upon their own part, a request that the law should be allowed to take its course. I deeply regret the interference in this harsh and unusual manner. I must, however, be permitted to observe, that that interference had no effect whatever upon the decision of his Excellency, that decision having been come to exclusively upon the most careful consideration of the notes of the evidence, and of the opinion of the jury and the Judge who tried the case. With respect to the third question, the hon. and learned Gentleman will excuse me if I am not so versed or practised in the law as to be able to give him direct authorities on the subject; but I think I may say this, that it is an old principle of law, recognised throughout the United Kingdom, that a party accused of felony may be put upon his trial upon an indictment until he be acquitted or convicted by a jury of his country. That is undoubtedly the law. The hon. and learned Gentleman asks what cases have occurred in England of persons being tried for a capital felony by a second jury, after the first jury was discharged. I will answer the question. In 1794, at the summer assizes of York, before Mr. Justice Lawrence, a person charged with murder was convicted and executed, the Judge having discharged the first jury, and ordered a second to be sworn, by which he was found guilty. I should not be dealing candidly with the House, if I did not state there is a distinction in this case—the judge had not summed up, and a juror was taken ill; and Mr. Justice Lawrence, having referred to the notes of Mr. Justice Buller, in a like case, decided that the first jury should be discharged, a second empannelled, and the trial should proceed. It may be said that, in the present case, the opinion of the jury was formed and expressed in open court. The House will allow me to state that, in a recent case, on the Midland Circuit, the identical point was decided. At the last spring assizes, a female, of the name of Hannah Jarvis, was indicted before Mr. Justice Coltman, the jury could come to no decision, and their difference of opinion continuing at the close of the assizes they were discharged by the learned Judge. In the summer assizes the prisoner was again brought up on the same indictment before Mr. Justice Maule, a second jury was empannelled, and they proceeded to trial, which ended in a verdict of acquittal; but the principle was the same. With regard to the law and practice in such matters, they were both ruled in this case by two of the ablest criminal Judges of Ireland—the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and the Chief Baron of the Exchequer. Before proceeding to the second trial, the points were solemnly argued, and the judgment was pronounced by the Chief Baron Brady, who also pronounced the sentence. The Lord Lieutenant acted upon the opinions of these learned Judges in directing that the prisoner should undergo the extreme penalty of the law.


alluded to a case in which he had been counsel, when Chief Justice Pennefather ruled that his argument was inconsistent with the practice, and the trial was proceeded with. The twelve Judges met on the subject, and though they gave no decision, it was understood they had formed an opinion adverse to that of Chief Justice Pennefather.


The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, in answer to a question of the hon. and learned Member for Cork, stated that three measures would be brought forward by the Government with regard to Ireland—one upon the franchise, another upon the Municipal Corporations, and a third on the law of Landlord and Tenant; but that no such Bills would be introduced until the commercial measures now before the House have been disposed of. I wish to ask the right hon. Baronet if those Bills will be introduced before the Coercion Bill now before the other House is discussed in this House.


Perhaps the noble Lord will give me an opportunity of answering his question some other day.