HC Deb 10 April 1862 vol 166 cc759-61

said, he rose to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, whether his attention has been called to circumstances that occurred at the late Assizes for the County Tyrone, which led to the quashing of the Petty Jury Panel and postponement of the trial of prisoners; and whether he has any objection to lay upon the table a Copy of Mr. Justice Christian's ruling when quashing the said Panel as returned by the Sheriff?


said, he would also beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the attention of the Government has been called to the fact that Mr. John M'Crossan, brother of the Sub-Sheriff of County Tyrone, an attorney in most extensive practice, employed principally in conducting criminal cases, particularly in the defence of prisoners, was for the first time placed upon the Grand Jury at the late Assizes at Omagh, to the exclusion of gentlemen who were present and who had served on former Grand Juries; that Mr. John M'Crossan was not only engaged for the defence of prisoners then for trial, and whom (although a Grand Juror) he continued to defend in the name of another attorney, but that he was also retained for the prosecution of the prisoner Donnelly, in whose behalf the Petit Jury Panel was challenged and quashed by Judge Christian; and whether the right hon. Baronet is prepared to take any steps to prevent the recurrence of a proceeding so unusual and so dangerous to the purity of the Jury system?


replied, that the circumstances to which the questions related had excited a good deal of feeling in Tyrone, and the attention of the Government had been called to them. As he had been in communication with Justice Christian, with the High Sheriff of Tyrone, and with the other authorities of the county, he might briefly state what the real facts were. It appeared that late on the last day of the Assizes, after all the other cases had been tried, a prisoner was arraigned before Justice Christian on an indictment of manslaughter. The counsel for the prisoner put in a challenge to the array of the Jury Panel, and the principal allegation was that the Sub-Sheriff had put upon the list the names of certain persons who were not on the list of the Clerk of the Peace for the current year, and had omitted the names of certain other persons who were upon that list. Two courses, as stated by Justice Christian, were open to the Counsel for the Crown. One was to traverse the challenge—in other words, to deny the truth of the allegations contained in it; and the other was to demur to the challenge—that was to say, to admit the facts, but to deny their sufficiency in law. The Counsel for the Crown adopted the latter course; but Justice Christian ruled, that assuming the facts to be as stated, the challenge was well-founded, and the Panel was quashed so far as concerned that particular case. The Counsel for the Crown, as well as those for the prisoner, having petitioned for an adjournment of the trial, the Judge assented, but there were no trials of prisoners postponed. There were two challenges—one in the Civil Court, which Justice Ball overruled, and the other to which he had already referred; but all the prisoners were tried. He would have no objection to produce the Paper for which the hon. and gallant Member for Dungannon had moved, but he thought there should be laid on the table along with it a copy of the challenge to the array of the Jury Panel.


said, that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland had given no answer to the question put to him by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Fermanagh as to whether a person engaged in the prosecution of some prisoners in Ireland had been placed on the Grand Jury.


With reference to the Question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Fermanagh, I may state that the trial of the person in question has been postponed till the next Assizes, the Counsel for the Crown having agreed to that course, with the approval of the Judge before whom the case went.