HC Deb 15 April 1864 vol 174 cc1120-42

said, he rose to ask for certain Returns of indictable offences committed in particular counties in Ireland, and laid before the Judges at the late assizes for Roscommon, Cavan, Longford, Limerick, and Westmeath. He did so with the object of eliciting an explanation of the causes for the prevalence of so large a proportion of undetected crime in those counties, and to ascertain what course the Government proposed to adopt to lessen the same. The assizes having now terminated the subject might properly be considered by the House, and if they could discover the causes of the defects in the administration of justice they might possibly suggest a remedy. The condition of Ireland had been described by the Attorney General for that country in very favourable terms, and the right hon. Gentleman had declared that no country in the world was so free from crime, and that although agrarian offences did occur, they were merely local, and left the normal condition of Ireland one of peace and order. The documents which he asked for were two in number. The first was a list of indictable offences and of persons indicted in, the several counties named in his Motion. The second was a list the existence of which was not known to many hon. Members, and therefore he would describe it. When a Judge arrived in the town where the assizes were to be held, the principal officer of police was required to furnish him with a list of the offences which had been committed in the county since the previous assizes. It was not usual to make public, those lists, although he did not know what. reason there could be against doing so, but the reason for his asking for those lists was, because they would give the real state of facts at the time of the last assizes in Ireland. He had he believed a correct extract from the calendar for one county—. Roscommon, which he would take as an example. The list of offenders for trial was small, being seven in number. But the question was, did the calendar of offences show the real state of crime in that county? He could not, of course, give the official figures, but he had been supplied by a gentleman resident in the county of Roscommon with a statement which he believed to be correct, and from which he found that the number of offences committed for which the offenders had not been brought to trial was no less than eighty-seven, including eleven incendiary fires, five cases of maiming cattle, fifteen of writing threatening letters, seven of attacking dwelling houses, five attempts to upset railway trains, and fifteen aggravated: assaults. He had also been favoured with another document bearing upon this subject. The number of applications at the last assizes for compensations for malicious injuries was fifteen or sixteen. Then came the question as to the provision made for the maintenance of the peace. As far as Roscommon was concerned, the state of things which he had described was by no means owing to a numerically inefficient police. The population of Roscommon was 157,000, and it had 412 members of the constabulary, while the county of Down, with a population of 300,000, had only 280 police. Upon those facts the learned Mr. Justice Christian made certain observations, and asked how it was that there were so many offences for which there were no prosecutions. The learned Judge said it could only be attributable to intimidation of the injured parties or to a general disinclination to assist justice, or to a deficiency of energy and skill on the part of the police. When the same learned Judge visited Galway he congratulated the grand jury upon the wholesome administration of the law in that county, as contrasted with others through which he had passed, and where he said there was not so much an absence of crime as a paralysis of justice. With respect to the county of Cavan, he had not been able to get a list of the undetected crimes in that county. The next county was that of Limerick, in which crime was considerable, but the Returns showed that in the case of highway robberies (four in number), burglaries, arson, killing and mutilating cattle (six in number)—a very serious offence in an agricultural country—sending threatening letters (ten in number), not a single person had been made amenable to justice. The Judge thought it necessary to comment on such a remarkable state of things, and he stated in a neighbouring county that it was a matter of great gratification to him to find that the remarks which he thought it his duty to make upon the subject had received the concurrence and approval of so respectable a body as the grand jury of the county of Limerick. In the county of Westmeath the Lord Chief Justice informed the grand jury that the convictions, as compared with the offences, were infinitesimal, and he had scarcely left the assize town when an honest farmer was attacked by, he believed, a band of Ribbonmen, who beat him almost to death, and said that they would return next day and do the same to his father. With regard to Longford, which did not stand well in the matter, he would not trouble the House, nor with respect to Donegal, where the cases were principally connected with the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which had led to a great increase of crime; but the House would have an opportunity of expressing its opinion on that subject when he (Mr. Whiteside) submitted his Motion on the spirit duties. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland must allow him to say that it was not in his power to dispute the opinions of the five Judges, Of all things there ought to be certainty in the administration of the criminal law, because the whole peace of the country depended upon it, and in the counties to which he had referred there had been a complete failure of justice. It had been said that it was difficult to detect threatening letters. But let the Executive look sharply after the schoolmasters of the district. He had had occasion to deal with threatening letters, and had not found the difficulty quite insuperable. In one case a letter was sent threatening to shoot a respectable gentleman, in the county of Kildare, and the writer was now ruminating on the consequences in his trausportation. When they looked to the facts which he had stated, they might be disposed to ask whether it was all the fault of the constabulary. He could not bring himself to believe so. He held in his hand a letter from a gentleman in one of the counties he had named, a magistrate of the highest respectability, and in it he was desired not to confine his attention merely to the police, but to ask what sort of men were the stipendiary magistrates, the age of the county Inspectors when they were appointed, how the whole administration of local justice was carried on, and what were the rules which governed the constabulary force. That gentleman said of the constabulary that he was informed they were instructed not to interfere with a crime that came under their notice unless they were absolutely on duty at the time, and that they were decidedly discouraged from what was called "officiously" exerting themselves to prevent the commission of offences. Was that the fact? [Sir ROBERT PEEL asked to see the letter, and the right hon. Gentleman handed it to him, though he stated it was a private one.] The real truth was that they had as moral, intelligent, and respectable a body of men as any in the world in the Irish constabulary; they were truthful witnesses, and in that capacity very fatal to the offender. But it was not persons that could march well or fight well that were wanted in Ireland; they had no one to fight with now; there were but few men in the counties, and every day was reducing the number. When he stated that fact on the second day of the Session he was contradicted, but it would be found that he was right. But he would ask the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, if a man were to put on his head a heavy helmet, then a belt round his waist, side arms, a big coat and other heavy accoutrements, and then he was to tell him, "There's a criminal, go and catch him," whether that man would be likely to do so? On one occasion, a very respectable gentleman, a Mr. Mauleverer, was murdered at one o'clock in the day, near the borders of the county of Louth. Some distance from the spot a police-officer, and a fine young man in the force, were accosted by a car-driver, who, he believed, was privy to the murder, and told that a gentleman had been killed on the road some distance off. They made the car-driver return to the spot, and found the body upon the road. He himself heard the constable describe what it was necessary to do. The officer remained with the body, but the young man threw off his helmet, his coat, his belt, and then he pursued the murderers for three miles through the fields, came up with them, and they were arrested before they entered a house. It was not, then, a question of breaking up the force, for that would be the greatest loss to the country; but some reasonable change should be made in the details of its organization, with a view to the pursuit of criminals, and the detection of crime. But there was another matter. He was informed by country gentlemen in Ireland, who would not attack the Government, but do all in their power to support it, that attempts were made to deprive them of all authority over the police, to transfer it to the stipendiary magistrates, and to centralize the control. Nothing could be more injurious, as regarded the detection of crime. In Carlow the Lord Chief Justice found that every criminal had been detected, and he said that that must have arisen because the magistrates and police worked in harmony together. In the North of Ireland there was not so much crime, but that was chiefly owing to the fact that the people were in a more prosperous condition. He believed that what Mr. Justice Keogh had said in passing a severe sentence upon the young men detected in drilling was quite true, and from what he had heard in the House as well, it was evident that there was a very strong feeling in certain quarters of Ireland in favour of what was termed "nationality." There was no use in blinking the fact. The right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, had described the country as being in a tranquil state. He might mention that on one occasion, when he was going to the college chapel in Dublin, he found himself in the midst of a very well-dressed assembly, so much so indeed that he at first believed that the gathering was in honour of a wedding. He made inquiries of a policeman, who informed him that it was the funeral of Mr. M'Manus, and that 7,000 young men had accompanied the body to the grave. He remembered that Mr. M'Manus was tried for high treason. It would be a great mistake to imagine that those young men who accompanied the funeral were either immoral or profligate. They were nothing of the kind. The right hon. Baronet would be told by them if they happened to meet him that there was not the slightest objection to him personally, but that the people would be very glad to get rid of him and his col- leagues. The same feeling extended itself towards the Government; but the fact that a feeling of discontent prevailed certainly would not justify the Government in making any attack upon the people. The House ought, however, to be on their guard, and not encourage theories which might prove destructive to the regular Government of the country. He moved For copies of the lists of all indictable offences laid before the Judges of Assizes at the late Assizes for the counties of Roscommon, Cavan, Longford, Limerick, and Westmeath; and also for the names of the parties made amenable at the said assizes, and of the offences for which they were severally indicted, as appearing in the calendars of said counties; and for an explanation of the causes why so large a proportion of undetected crime prevails in said counties, and what course the Government means to adopt in order to lessen the same. He believed he was putting a very practical question in asking his right hon. Friend the Secretary for Ireland whether he had reflected upon the matter since he had last addressed the House upon the subject, and whether the Government had adopted, or was prepared to adopt, any plan which would have the effect of lessening the number of instances in which crime had taken place without leading to detection.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there be laid before this House, Copies of the Lists of all Indictable Offences laid before the Judges of Assize at the late Assizes for the counties of Roscommon, Cavan, Longford, Limerick, and Westmeath, and also for the names of the parties made amenable at said Assizes, and of the offences for which they were severally indicted, as appearing in the calendars of said counties,"— (Mr. Whiteside,)

—instead thereof.


said, he had given the subject much consideration since it had last been submitted to the attention of the House. He assured the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Whiteside) that the observations he made upon a former occasion were not intended to cast any slur upon the remarks of the Judges. His object on that occasion had been to show that the state of the country generally was not what it was sometimes described to be. Before, however, alluding to the subject, he wished to make one remark. They all knew that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) was a very spirited and dashing speaker, and that when he made an assertion, which probably in his own mind he was fully aware at the time was not literally true, he endeavoured to give it weight by stating that the assertion he had made had been erroneously corrected. Now, he would not allow the right hon. Gentleman to make any such statement concerning himself without correcting it. The right hon. Gentleman had stated on that occasion that 100,000 fighting men had left Ireland in the course of twelve months, and he had respectfully assured the right hon. Gentleman that such was not the case. He had acknowledged that 119,000 people had left Ireland, but he had also stated that 58,000 out of that number were women, and 12,000 children under twelve years of age. The severe correction which he on that occasion administered to the right hon. Gentleman he still maintained was well merited. The right hon. Gentleman might repeat that he had no right to correct him, but so long as he persisted in repeating his statement so long would be (Sir Robert Peel) continue to point out to the House and to the country that that statement was incorrect.


I beg your pardon. What I stated was—


said, that the right hon. Gentleman would have an opportunity of referring to the subject afterwards. As regarded the Motion then before the House, the Government were quite ready to furnish the right hon. Gentleman with the copies he required. The right hon. Gentleman had also asked him if he could give any explanation as to the cause why so large a proportion of undetected crime prevailed in the country, and what course the Government intended to adopt in order to lessen the amount of undetected crime. The right hon. Gentleman had then gone seriatim through the counties of Roscommon, Cavan, Longford, Limerick, and Westmeath. He desired the attention of the House to the subject, because it was important for them, when learned Judges commented upon the amount of undetected crime, to know the difficulty under which they laboured respecting the detection of offenders. It was true, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, that in the county of Roscommon the Judge had said, in March, that the total number of outrages since the previous assizes, a period of eight months, had been eighty-seven, and that out of that number the parties who were concerned in forty-seven of them were totally unknown. It was true that there had been eleven incendiary fires, five cases of killing cattle, one of demanding arms, and five of firing shots at night, without the perpetrators in any instance being discovered. It was also true that there had been fifteen cases of sending threatening notices, seven of injury to houses, and several attempts to upset trains, or cases in which stones had been thrown at them, without any person having been made amenable. Immediately that statement was made, he wrote to the county Inspector to ascertain the reason for the existence of such a state of things, and his answer was, that in thirty of those cases the injured parties had declined to lodge any information upon oath. How was it possible for the Government to compel injured parties to come forward and to lodge information against their will? There were thirty cases in which depositions were sworn but no individual offenders charged, and twenty-seven in which the offenders were sworn to, thus making up the total of eighty-seven. The right hon. Gentleman had also alluded to the county of Cavan. The Judge at the assizes held in that county in March last, had remarked that the return of offenders reported since the previous assizes showed fifty-four cases, in only sixteen of which had any person been arrested. Among the catalogue of offences in that county, he found that four incendiary fires remained undiscovered; that nine cases of house-breaking or burglary had occurred without more than two persons having been arrested, and that those two had been discharged; that there had been two cases of demanding or robbery of arms, two of administering unlawful oaths, and twelve of sending threatening letters. For the latter offence two persons were made amenable. He took the opportunity of making the same inquiry of the county Inspector in this instance as he had in the cases which had occurred in Roscommon. His reply was, that there had undoubtedly been four incendiary fires, but that in one case it did not appear to have been malicious, at least the landlord was of that opinion; in another that the owner said it was malicious and that he had £64 in the thatch, but that no one appeared to credit him; in the third case, the burning of a dwelling house and shop, it had since been ascertained to have been a wilful attempt to defraud creditors, and that the perpetrator was now being punished; in the fourth and last case, the fire, though reputed to have been a wilful one, was now believed by the sub-Inspector of police and the public to have been accidental. In one of the cases of robbery of arms, the gun was stolen from the cabin of a care taker while he was away at night. In the other a number of persons came to a house and carried away a gun. The owner and his family were examined before the magistrate, and swore they could not even give a description of any one of the party. That circumstance alone would give the House some idea of the difficulty they experienced in the due administration of justice. A party of men came in broad daylight without any disguise and took away a gun, and yet the parties aggrieved would not come forward and give evidence of the robbery. In cases of sending threatening letters, of which there were twelve, and one conviction, every one acknowledged the difficulty of bringing such offenders to justice. The remaining cases of undiscovered crime were principally assaults at public places or on the return home from fairs and markets by persons whom the injured parties swore they did not know. There were offences peculiar to some counties which were unknown in others—for instance, in Cavan there were threatening letters, which had generally something to do with the Ribbon system. Injuries to cattle and incendiary fires were also peculiar to that county. In the opinion of the county magistrates, however, Cavan had not been for several years past in a more peaceable state, and the Judges confirmed the statement that the constabulary enjoyed the respect of the magistracy and the public. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had told the House about the 7,000 persons who went to the funeral of Mr. M'Manus, in Dublin; but he had not stated that there was no breach of the peace committed. He did not know why it should fall to the province of the right hon. Gentleman to lower his country by raking up those cases and making the worst of a state of things which was not so bad as it seemed. Limerick had also been spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman, and there the learned Judge observed— I have been furnished by your county Inspector with his Report, containing a return of the amount of offences committed, and I am struck with suprise at the numbers set down for which no one has been made amenable, and others where the prosecutions had been altogether abandoned. It was true that there were thirty-three cases brought before the Judge in which there were no informations, but in eight the injured persons declined to give any evidence, and in the remaining twenty-five the magistrates considered it either useless or injudicious to take informations, as they could implicate no one. That Report did not represent so bad a state of things in Limerick county as the right hon. Gentleman would have the House believe. It was true that in three or four counties the Judges did blame the constabulary for want of efficiency, as is evinced by the number of persons convicted; but in the remaining twenty-nine counties the Judges and the magistracy concurred in declaring that the state of those counties was satisfactory, and in speaking most favourably of the efficiency of the constabulary, that force which the right hon. Gentleman had ventured to criticize. He had spoken of their being armed with a helmet, with bayonets at their belts, as though a man could use his weapon there, and that they had as much on their backs as that table could carry. The constabulary had been organized for forty years as at present, and they were admitted to be the finest force in the world. The right hon. Gentleman had asked him whether he had turned his attention to this matter since last he had brought it before the House.


I never brought it before the House.


Well, then, the right hon. Gentleman had ventured upon erroneous statements which he was obliged to correct. He had had drawn up for his own information the statements of the Judges of twenty-nine separate counties, and in every instance they had spoken favourably of the state of the country and of the constabulary. He would not weary the House by going through the whole of the charges, and would, therefore, only allude to the charge of Chief Justice Monaghan at Kerry, who said that he would not join in the cry that had been raised by his brethren, the other Judges, to run down the constabulary. The Chief Justice, on the contrary, expressed his belief that the police honourably and conscientiously discharged their duty. In twenty-eight other counties similar reports had been made by the Judges. So active and energetic had been the constabulary, indeed, within the last few years, that the annual Report of offences, arrests, &c., showed a decrease of offences last year compared with 1862 of more than 1,200. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of the popula- tion of Roscommon, Cavan, and Limerick and endeavoured to prove that a greater number of crimes were committed in the southern and western counties than in the north of Ireland. The population of Roscommon, Cavan, and Limerick was 483,979; the number of offences and arrests reported in the three counties for eight months was 227, and the number of arrests was 114. So that in those three counties there was one offence to every 2,132 persons during the eight months. The population of England and Wales, exclusive of the metropolis, was 17,263,857. The number of offences during eight months was 26,624, and the number of arrests was 15,871. In England and Wales, therefore, there was one offence for every 648 persons, while in Ireland there was only one offence to every 2,132 persons. The House could scarcely imagine the difficulty experienced by the authorities in Ireland in inducing persons to come forward and swear informations when offences had been committed. He had only that day received two remarkable statements respecting the unwillingness to assist the course of justice. He would read the report of the resident magistrate in Westmeath— County Westmeath, Kilbeggan, April 13. On Sunday night last, about eleven o'clock, James Casey, about twenty years of age, of Boston, county Westmeath, within two miles of Moate, was returning with four others from Ballycumber, in the King's County. Some talk about their respective fighting powers ended in one William Galvin's giving Casey a blow with a large stone held in his fist over the left temple. I saw him on Monday evening, and though perfectly sensible and collected he refuses to say one word about the affair, saying he knows nothing about it. [An hon. MEMBER: That is a common case.] The information of Reynolds, who was of the party and present, clearly fixes it on William Galvin, who, he says, was provoked by Casey. We should have succeeded in arresting Galvin, who has got off, but that Casey's father, who sent for Dr. Mathews, at half past twelve a.m. on Monday morning, never called at the barrack, which was passed on the way to the doctor's, through whom, I understand, the police heard of the affair about noon of Monday last. William Galvin was at his usual employment up to that hour of that day, but did not return to it after dinner hour, for we were near him. He would give another instance of the general unwillingness to assist the police from King's County— Parsonstown, April 11, 1864. I have to report that at ten o'clock a.m. on the 1st inst., two men, names unknown, went into a field in the above townland, where Michael Coughlan, his two brothers, and seven men (in the employment of Coughlan) were ploughing, and told Coughlan 'that he had no right to come there without first settling with John Doorley (the former tenant, who had been evicted from that farm in December last), and that if he did not settle with Doorley, that he, Doorley, would, if it was to go for three or five years, get a man to go into the field and shoot him.' Although there were nine men with Coughlan at the time, there was no effort whatever made on their part to arrest or even trace those men, nor did Coughlan report the matter to the police (although the barrack was within half a mile of the lands which they were ploughing) until the 8th inst. From the description Coughlan gave of the parties the constable at Rapemills at once arrested the parties I have named, whom I have no doubt (nor has Mr. Curran, R.M.) but that the two former were the two men who threatened Coughlan, but as he refused to identify them when brought before him on the 9th inst. they were discharged. The reason assigned for the outrage is that Coughlan refused compensation to Doorley for improvements done to the property. He could have entered much more lengthily into the statements made by the right hon. Gentleman, but he felt that he had already trespassed upon the attention of the House. He was anxious, however, to disclaim any intention of having cast a slur upon learned Judges, one of whom was an intimate personal friend of his own. In what he had stated upon the occasion referred to he thought he was justified, because one of the Judges had, as he believed, made sweeping statements against the magistracy, although in twenty-nine other counties the most complete and thorough approval had been expressed from the judicial bench of the harmonious manner in which the magistracy and constabulary were acting together for the detection of crime. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would feel satisfied that he was always ready to pay immediate attention to any remarks from him upon matters properly within his province, and that his desire was that the Executive and magistrates should as far as possible act together in harmony upon all matters affecting the internal condition of the country. He only hoped that the favourable opinions which the Judges had been able to express in twenty-nine counties would, in the ensuing assizes, prove equally applicable to the other four. He was happy to say, that during the three years he had had the honour of being connected with the Government of Ireland, a vast improvement had manifested itself in the feelings and character of the people; and if irritating causes would only cease to agitate the people of that country, a corresponding advance would be observed in their social condition year by year, and the House might congratulate itself that the state of crime in that country was rapidly and sensibly diminishing.


said, that in a former debate he had stated the number of fighting men who had emigrated from Ireland at 100,000 men. He afterwards applied to the proper quarter, and was told that he had stated the figures accurately.


said, in his opinion, the Irish Members of that House ought to be thankful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside), for having brought that subject before the notice of the House. At the same time, he regretted that the debate was of a mere abstract character, and could be attended with no practical result. He would rather that the right hon. Gentleman had moved for a Committee to examine into the efficiency or inefficiency of the Irish police. If the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland knew more about the country, he would not be so strenuous a supporter of the Irish police. That body, according to the judgment of most people, resembled more closely an army of occupation than a civil organization for the detection of crime. The Irish police were armed with swords, guns, and bayonets. They lived in barracks like fortresses, and did not mix with the people; thus they knew nothing of their character, and possessed none of the facilities which the English police force had for the detection of criminals. Every year, too, they were becoming more and more military. In the case of the English police, they lived among the people in their own houses, and knowing thoroughly all the various districts in. which they lived, as well as the general character of the inhabitants, when a crime was committed they were in most cases able to pounce upon the criminal. Unfortunately, in Ireland, everything was managed in such a manner as to conduce to a job. In the case of a felony committed in England, the person who had been robbed gave information to the police, who generally succeeded in detecting the criminal. Then the person robbed employed his own attorney and barrister, and the offender was brought to speedy justice. In Ireland, on the contrary, a person was not allowed to vindicate the law by means of professional men of his own choice, and in consequence of the system upon which prosecutions were conducted juries would not convict. There certainly was a Crown prosecutor in Ireland, but he generally lived in Dublin, or the chief town of the county with which he was connected, and knew nothing and cared less about the details of those matters. He believed that it would be far better if the people were to employ their own attornies or law advisers. In every country where public prosecutors were part of the establishment there had been a gross failure of justice. He complained of the apathy of the public prosecutors, and expressed his opinion that until the system of conducting prosecutions in Ireland by the Crown prosecutors was abolished, justice would never be properly administered. He suggested that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Whiteside) should move for a Committee to investigate the whole subject.


said, that as the county Roscommon, with which he was so intimately connected, and which he had the honour to represent in that House, had been so pointedly alluded to in the course of the present debate, he wished to make a few remarks. He was very desirous of ascertaining the true state of the facts connected with crime in Ireland; but he greatly doubted whether the Return asked for by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside), would give the information which he desired. The last list of crime in the county of Roscommon presented eighty-seven offences, but let not the House suppose that eighty-seven outrages had really taken place. In Judge Christian's charge, at the last assizes, he alluded to eleven incendiary fires as having been reported. Now, it should be remembered that there existed in Ireland a system under which compensation was granted for malicious injuries. Consequently there was a great temptation to induce persons to invent or exaggerate the character of offences. He found by a reference to the presentments made before the grand jury at the last assizes of Roscommon, that out of those eleven alleged incendiary fires there were only three instances in which compensation had been given. It was not, therefore, to be concluded that those eleven outrages had actually been committed. In three other instances the parties did not even swear informations, which proved the fact that they themselves did not believe that the fires were attributable to the deliberate designs of any person. When Judge Christian delivered his charge, in which he spoke of the disturbed and criminal state of Roscommon, he made inquiries into the nature of the offences entered on the list, and although they were described with high-sounding names, in reality they turned out to be mere trifles. The first case was described as homicide; but it turned out to be an accident. A carman who was driving home from Roscommon races accidentally knocked down a man, who died of the injuries which he received. The next was firing at the person, which turned out to be a joke. An old pensioner had a dispute with an old woman about a heap of manure, and he fetched a pistol loaded with powder, and snapped it at her. The next case was described as one of "burglary and robbery," which, it appeared, originated in the mistake of a bailiff, in serving a process in the wrong house after nightfall. There was a case of demanding arms, which turned out to be a hoax; and there were said to have been fifteen cases of threatening letters it support of which there were no sworn informations. They presented no great feature of criminality. The detection of such a crime at the best of times was a great difficulty, and he thought it was a great injustice to the police to charge them with neglect in not discovering the writers. These offences differed very much in degree, in some cases the letters being sent out of mere foolishness and ignorance, without the slightest intention to carry out the threats; and it was but just to the police to say that the discovery of their authors was a most difficult task. An analysis of the calendar showed how wrong it was to form conclusions by merely reading the headings of the charges. Allusion had been made to the efficiency of the English police, and it had been quoted as against the Irish police; but he found, from a Return that had been published, that in fifteen of the English police districts, the proportion of arrests and convictions presented a worse case against them than had been made out against the Irish police.


observed, that the question of detection of crime in Ireland was not then before the House, but as it would have to be discussed he should reserve what he had to say about it till a future occasion. When the hon. Member for Roscommon (The O'Conor Don) sought I to establish that only a small proportion of what he called incendiary fires were proved to be malicious, he merely proved that there existed extreme difficulty on the part of those persons who were the sufferers by those offences, in making clear the existence of ma- lice in those cases. This was owing in some degree to the fact that they had to submit their claims to what might be regarded as in some degree an adverse tribunal. The number of serious charges also to which the hon. Gentleman alluded, such as homicide and burglary, as having been made against persons who were guilty of, comparatively speaking, much lighter offences, instead of being an argument in favour of the present system of prosecution in Ireland, plainly demonstrated that it required amendment. Into the larger question of the detection of crime he did not that evening propose to enter at any length; but as one who had experience as a magistrate for a period of twenty-nine years, he must protest against the absurd system of giving to the police in Ireland, who ought to be the main instruments in that detection, the military organization which they now received. It was impossible to expect that the police, who had been spoilt by military organization, could detect crime. It was their foolish military organization which made them useless as a detective police force. Had the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland been in his place, he should have advised him to study gravely, and with filial reverence, the regulations which had been laid down by his illustrious father in reference to that body when they were called into existence, and from which of late there bad been a serious departure. He would confer a great benefit on the people of Ireland if he would adopt those instructions, and have them carried out. He knew it would be said that to have an efficient force the men must be armed with the most efficient weapon. That was true, and that argument was used by the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and, owing to his influence and popularity, it seemed to satisfy the House on a former occasion; but he would venture to point out that, in discussing what was the most efficient weapon for a body of men, you must have reference to the duties those men have to perform. What, he would like to know, was the use of giving a policeman a rifle which would kill at 900 yards? Who ever heard of a member of the force taking a flying shot at a runaway pickpocket at that distance? Much better would it be to arm the men with the old carbine, which would carry only fifty or sixty yards, which was used as a weapon of defence and not of offence, which was light and handy, and which did not prevent the police from giving effectual chase to a criminal. But, besides the rifle now in use, there was also the sword scabbard, which dangled about their legs, and rendered it almost impossible for them to he active in pursuit; while, being an expensive implement, and a stoppage being made from their pay for an injury done to it, they not unnaturally would prefer letting a man escape occasionally to running that risk. The consequence was that they dandled it like a baby rather than injure the precious weapon. The force, as a detective force, was a mockery. It would be far better to get rid of all that useless military organization and encourage the men to become good detectives, and thereby be able to trace criminals and to prevent crime. He believed the Irish police to have been a most excellent force until the military mania came over it. But worse than all was the fact that, owing to some secret instructions—and from whom they emanated he was not in the slightest degree aware, the police showed great reluctance to communicate with the local magistracy, standing aloof from them, and affecting a preference for the stipendiary magistrates of the district. Instead of the existence of a complete understanding between the resident country gentlemen and the police, it appeared that secret instructions were issued, and that the police were told to communicate only with the stipendiary magistrates. In illustration of the operation of that system he might mention that, on the occasion of the late assizes, when Mr. Justice Ball, a highly respected Judge, visited the county of Down to preside in the Crown Court, he, in speaking of the state of that county, expressed his regret at finding in it so lamentable a state of crime; and when his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Down (Lieutenant Colonel Forde) who was foreman of the grand jury, assured his Lordship that he and his colleagues knew nothing about the crime of which he spoke, the answer was that the facts had been reported to him by the police; to which his hon. Friend replied that the police had not reported the crimes alluded to by his Lordship, to the resident magistrates and landlords of the county. Now, that was a state of things which ought not to be allowed to exist, and the Government would, he hoped, take the whole question into their serious consideration.


said, he must deny that the amount of undetected crime could be estimated by a comparison of the number of offences alleged to have been committed with the number of persons brought to trial; because he was prepared to show that, in numerous instances, offences had been alleged where none had been committed. He had moved for a list of the outrages alleged to have been committed in Ireland, in order that it might be compared with the cases actually brought before the Judges of assize, and thus determine the actual amount of undetected crime. He would take three cases in the county of Longford and the county of Westmeath. In one of these there was a charge that a threatening notice had been served upon a particular gentleman, but the gentleman himself denied that any such notice had been served. In another case of a similar charge, after some inquiry, the person who had made it was threatened with a prosecution on the ground that he himself was the writer of the letter which he said had been sent to him. In the third, a copying book was found in the house of the person who made the charge, in which book there was a torn sheet corresponding with the one on which the threat was written. Again, with respect to incendiary fires, if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) were a country gentleman he would know that many of the claims made on counties in respect of such alleged fires, were rejected by the grand juries. Out of eleven cases of alleged fires submitted to the grand jury of the county of Roscommon, only three were prosecuted. One gentleman, who in a more distant part of the country had alleged more than one case of malicious outrage as having been perpetrated against himself, came to reside at Swords, near Dublin, and made a similar accusation. He alleged that stones were constantly being thrown at his house. Policemen were sent to watch it, and whenever they were in the house no stones were thrown, but no sooner did they take their departure than the alleged attacks were again repeated. At length the police resorted to the expedient of hiding in a ditch, without the knowledge of the owner of the house, and having heard a volley of stones strike the buildings, they rushed out and found that the delinquent was the gentleman himself.


Was the case referred to that of a clergyman?


thought that the person in question was a clergyman. He hoped he had stated sufficient facts to show that a comparison of the number of alleged offences with the number of persons brought to trial would not show the amount of undetected crime in Ireland.


said, that he must agree with most of the statements of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Mr. Whiteside). He believed the disinclination which at present existed among the Irish peasantry to give information against criminals was one of the effects of the police system, which did not afford protection to prosecutors. Not only had the magistrates and the grand juries no control over the police, but it was believed that their recommendation of a constable would prevent the man from getting promotion. The men composing the force were exceedingly fine men, but they had no inducement to exert themselves, as it was impossible for them, under the existing system, to improve their position in connection with the force.


wished to say a very few words before this discussion concluded, with reference to some observations which appeared to him to have unwarrantably dealt with the administration of criminal justice in Ireland. The general effect of the debate was very satisfactory, for it had dispelled delusion and done justice to public officers who had been assailed without sufficient reason. He did not think it necessary to go at length into the general question; but now, at the close of the debate, and after the testimony which had been given as to the condition of Ireland by so many representatives of large and important constituencies, he thought himself entirely justified in repeating the assertion he had made on a former occasion in that House, and to which his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, adverted in the opening of his statement, that there was not at this moment in the world a people less tainted with vice or crime than the people of Ireland. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wexford had denounced the system of crown prosecutions in Ireland and urged the substitution of that which prevails in England. He confessed he did not admire the continual reiteration of the preference for all English institutions with which they were familiar in that House, and as to the matter in question he believed the Irish system to be incomparably superior to the English, and it was so considered by every man at the bar acquainted with their working and results. The Law Amendment Society and the Social Science Association were distinctly in favour of the establishment of a system of public prosecution, aiming to have justice fairly and calmly administered, without interest or passion in the prosecution or undue pressure on the accused. At the late meeting of the Social Science Association in Dublin, the venerable Lord Brougham expressed his high approval of the appointment of public prosecutors, and his desire that they should be appointed for England. As to the detection of crime, the Judges, whose opinions on such a subject should be received with extreme respect, had not pronounced the condemnation of the police. In three or four counties there had been complaints, but the learned Judge whose brilliant career in that House was so well remembered, Judge Keogh, whilst he lamented that some offences had not been discovered in Limerick, spoke in the highest praise of the police force, and his approval of it was echoed by the grand jury, who returned him their warm thanks for his address on the subject. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald, who had also held such a distinguished position in Parliament, had given it his equally emphatic approval; and many other Judges of the greatest eminence expressed the same opinion. In the vast majority of the counties of Ireland, at the last assizes, there was no objection taken, nor the slightest pretence for any, to the action of the constabulary, who were on all hands admitted to be a most intelligent, well conducted, and trustworthy body of men. Some difficulty they undoubtedly encountered, because in Ireland the people were not, as in this country, in perfect relations of amity with the law. Long years of partial and unjust legislation—laws not made in their interest or administered for their advantage had produced a deep impression on their minds. The traditions of the past were not forgotten. The brief quarter of a century which had elapsed since the tardy recognition of the principles of religious freedom and equal justice had not been sufficient to obliterate its painful memories. But a manifest improvement was taking place, and by persisting patiently in a firm and kindly course—by securing legal protection and fair play to all, the Government could induce the people to love the law and assist in its administration. He had been grossly misrepresented as having asserted that justice in Ireland was now satisfactorily dispensed to a contented community. He had never thought or said that the Irish community were content with their general condition, depressed and suffering as they were, but he had stated, as he believed, that they were more content than they had ever been with the manner in which prosecutions were directed, and with the conduct of the Judges and the tribunals. He lamented extremely—he thought it was a pity and a shame that there was still such a disposition amongst some Irishmen to exaggerate the criminality of their own country and lower it in the estimation of other lands, instead of boasting of the wonderful and unexampled purity and virtue which distinguished it, notwithstanding so many evil influences of poverty and temptation. In England, men were not found to throw discredit upon their poorer countrymen, although far larger masses of undetected crime existed there than in Ireland. Had they not heard of such terrible mysteries as the Road murder, the Waterloo Bridge murder, and the Hay-market murder? And were these things made the subject of attack by Englishmen on the authorities or the people of England? He had looked into the last volume of the English judicial statistics, and he found that whilst in a single year 13,289 crimes had been committed in the metropolis, only 5,444 persons had been apprehended; in the pleasure towns, as they were called, 940 crimes were committed, and 362 persons arrested; in the towns depending on agricultural districts, 472 crimes were committed, and 324 persons arrested; in the commercial ports, the crimes were 5,271, and the arrests 2,899; and in the seats of the cotton and linen manufacture, the crimes were 9,370, and the arrests 2,738. He believed that when the Irish judicial statistics, which he hoped to lay on the table of the House in the course of the Session, were compared with those of this rich and prosperous kingdom, the comparison would be found most favourable to Ireland as to the amount, the character, and the detection of crime. On the whole, he was satisfied that this discussion would be serviceable to the interests of truth, and not in any way detri- mental to the character of the constabulary of Ireland.


begged to observe that there was a very important matter of deep public interest to be disposed of that night, the Report of the Committee of Ways and Means on the Sugar Duties. Very great commercial inconvenience would be experienced if the Report were not brought up that night, and it was then past ten o'clock. He therefore appealed to hon. Members to have the kindness to postpone their observations on the topic now before the House, and on any other subjects of which they might have given notice, to some other evening, as it would be a very great convenience to the public service.


expressed surprise that the noble Lord did not make this appeal before his own Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. O'Hagan) made his long and rather singular speech, in which he quite led the House away from the real subject. He was the last man to doubt the purity or impugn the morality of the Irish people; but the present was a question not of national morality, but of the organization of the police force. The Government of Ireland was framed on a vicious system, which had long been abandoned in England. It was a system copied from France. Everything in Ireland tended to Dublin, every question must be referred to the Castle. The only point on which Irish Gentlemen, who differed from one another on every other matter, were agreed was the utter inefficiency of the system of a military police. The constabulary were riflemen, but without the activity and discipline of soldiers. It had been said that they were a fine body of men, and that in one sense was true, for they were six feet in height. As a detective police, however, they were altogether useless, Irish gentlemen, whether magistrates, Judges, or grand jurors, all shared that opinion. Ireland might be pure and moral, but he doubted whether the Irish Government was so. Everything in the country was transferred to that sink of iniquity—the Castle. If such a Government were in existence in England the country would not go on for twenty-four hours. Irish gentlemen were reproached as absentees in this country, but what inducement had they to remain in Ireland? Their opinions were set aside, their services were declined; the Castle was everything, and except the Law Officers every official there was English. No Irishman was admitted to office; as Swift said, "The curse of Ireland was upon him." Hence it was that men illustrious for their ignorance of and inability to understand Ireland were preferred to Irishmen. As long as that system lasted, so long would crime remain undiminished, and the Irish Secretary and the Attorney General would talk about Irish purity and morality, neglecting the means of lessening crime and of placing the police on a better footing.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to,