HC Deb 24 March 1865 vol 178 cc196-202

said, he wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether he was aware that, in addition to the unwarrantable and censorial observations made by Chief Justice Monahan, reflecting on the character of gentlemen in the county of Down in their magisterial capacity, that Judge had in open court, when a Magistrate was endeavouring to explain the facts of the case, interrupted the Magistrate and refused to hear him, making use of these words, or words to the same effect, "G—d—it, Sir, it's all stuff and nonsense." It was generally credited in the county of Down that those words were used, and a great sensation had been consequently caused?


said, he rose to order. He wished to know, before the hon. Baronet proceeded further, whether he had given notice to Chief Justice Monahan of his intention to bring so serious a charge against him.


Let the hon. Baronet ask his Question.


said, that he had given notice to the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland and had made him acquainted with the words which he believed could be proved to have been used. The people of the county of Down were primitive enough not to understand the use of such language from the Judicial Bench. He also wished to know whether Chief Justice Monahan had made to the Irish Government any explanation, justification, or retractation of the words censured by the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary, on a former occasion, in terms for which he (Sir Thomas Bateson) begged to thank him, and whether the Chief Secretary was aware that the Magistrates on the Rathfriland Bench, in the county of Down, were acting in the case of "The Queen v. O'Hare and others," under the advice and instructions of the Law Advisers for the Crown?


I should wish to ask the right hon. Baronet, in addition, If Chief Justice Monahan has made any Report of this case to the Irish Government, and whether he has communicated with the right hon. Baronet with reference to the observations made by him on this affair, and if so, whether, in fairness to the Chief Justice, he will lay those communications on the table of the House, so that this House, which has heard the charges against this distinguished Judge, may hear the explanation of the circumstances connected with them?


I think it would have been infinitely better if, after the answer I gave the other night, this question had not been put. It is true that the Magistrates did consult the Law Officers of the Crown, and that they confirmed the judgment of the Magistrates in this matter. Chief Justice Monahan has written to me with respect to what an hon. and gallant Member of this House (Colonel Forde) said with reference to these re- marks. Chief Justice Monahan states to me— Colonel Forde mentioned to me that some people in the County Down were of opinion that I had accused the Magistrates there of administering justice partially. I have written to say that I do not remember exactly what observations I made, but certainly I had no intention of making any such charge. I am not aware what expressions were used by Chief Justice Monahan, and I am unable to say whether the charges are true or not, but I am only expressing the general opinion when I say that there is no more impartial or upright man upon the Irish Bench, and it was only yesterday that Lord Downshire came to me and said, "I do not know what the conduct of the Chief Justice may have been at Downpatrick, but I do not know any more just and upright man who goes circuit than Chief Justice Monahan." Those who know Chief Justice Monahan know that he is a little hasty and impetuous at times, but that he bears the character of an upright, frank, honest man. It is quite possible that in the heat of his observations he may have given way to some expressions which many might condemn, but I have no authority to state, without referring to him, that he did make use of the expressions attributed to him by the hon. Baronet.


I beg to ask the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland, whether Chief Justice Monahan has reported to the Irish Government with reference to this case; and secondly, whether such Report, if any, contains any reference to the epithets unjustifiably used by Chief Justice Monahan?


I beg again to state that what I said the other night was, that so far as my information went Chief Justice Monahan was not warranted in making the remarks he had made. The Chief Justice has written to me, and I think that if he had known all the circumstances which occurred at the sessions he would not have made use of the observations which fell from him on the occasion referred to.


I must again appeal to the right hon. Baronet to give some reply to the two Questions I have put to him. Has Chief Justice Monahan reported upon the administration of justice in the county of Down? [Sir ROBERT PEEL: He has reported.] Will the right hon. Baronet lay that Report upon the table of the House?


said, that having the honour of representing the county of Down, he wished to make a few observations on that subject, and to place himself in order he would conclude by moving the adjournment of the House. He begged to tender his thanks to the Chief Secretary for Ireland for the prompt manner in which he had come forward to vindicate the magistrates of the county of Down; for there was no doubt that the words attributed to the Chief Justice in the local papers had been used by him. The expressions of Chief Justice Monahan in charging the petty jury in the case in question were— Gentlemen, you have heard the whole of the evidence in this case; and I must say that I am very much disgusted with the way in which justice is administered in the county of Down. The learned Judge also added that the very idea of having peace in the county when matters were conducted in that way was utterly out of the question. Now, it was not for him to justify the magistrates of the county of Down in what they had done, for their conduct was above reproach, and no body of gentlemen could administer justice more impartially than they had done. The magistrates might have done wrong in taking action in the matter. They wrote to Lord Dufferin, who was in London attending to his official duties, but his Lordship had not answered their letter when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes gave notice of his question. When the hon. Member for Devizes had given his notice relating to this matter lie himself wrote on behalf of the magistrates of the county of Down the following letter to Chief Justice Monahan, dated March 18:— My Lord,—Having had an opportunity this day of conferring with some of the magistrates of the neighbourhood (whose names I annex) upon the subject of your Lordship's observations when charging the petty jury in the Rathfriland riot case, as reported in the Belfast News Letter of the 11th inst., a copy of which I send you, we beg respectfully to know if this is a correct report, as, if so, we conceive the magistrates of the county are accused of administering 'partial justice,' and that any reproach cast upon them is likely to act injuriously to the maintenance of peace. A reply, at your Lordship's earliest convenience, will greatly oblige. On the Tuesday morning, when he should have had an answer to that letter, he was returning here and he called on the Chief Justice at Belfast, and the learned Judge expressed himself as truly sorry that any observations which he had made should have been construed in any such way; and certainly, from what the learned Judge said, he thought that perhaps his letter which followed might have been a more ample expression of his regret for what had happened than it was. He would now read to the House the letter he received from the Chief Justice— Belfast, March 22. My dear Colonel Forde,—I was detained so late in court last evening that I was unable to write to you by last night's mail, as I intended. As I stated when I had the pleasure of seeing you yesterday, I took no note of the observations made by me at the late trial at Down, nor can I recollect with accuracy what they were; but of this I am certain, that I had not any intention of stating that I considered the magistrates of the county capable of administering 'partial justice,' which you mention as the inference drawn by some from the report of the trial. Any observations I made had reference to the case then at trial, in which, from the evidence before me, I was of opinion that a serious mistake had been committed in sending for trial some of one party accused of riot, when from the evidence before me it appeared that the other party were, to say the least of it, equally culpable. It may be, as you stated yesterday, that if the facts appearing at petty sessions had been brought before me, my opinion would have been different. My dear Colonel Forde, yours very truly, JAMES H. MONAHAN, Lieutenant Colonel Forde, M.P., Carlton Club, London. He thought it was only fair to the magistrates of Rathfriland that he should state very shortly the case as it came before them. The case, he would say, was brought before the Judge in a very had manner; the evidence was not properly placed before him. There happened to have been two riots on that occasion, and the Judge, unfortunately, mixed them both up together. The case was that of "The Queen v. Edward O'Hare and others," and the following was a statement of the proceedings upon it at Rathfriland Petty Sessions:— On the 3rd of March, 1865, the adjourned case against Edward O'Hare, John Hillen, and John M'Evoy, for riot at Aughnavallog, on the 10th of February last, was proceeded with at Rathfriland Petty Sessions. For the prosecution it was proved that a riot had taken place at Aughnavallog, about one mile from Rathfriland, between half past five and six o'clock on that evening, and that O'Hare, Hillen, and M'Evoy were present, two of the accused being stripped to the shirt, and one of them using party expressions. That at same place, and about same time, a mob attacked and beat inoffensive individuals, some of whom were seriously injured. For the defence it was proved that previously to this, in the town of Rathfriland, a riot had taken place, in which were two party mobs throwing stones. No evidence was offered against any one of either party for the riot at Rathfriland, and the Justices of the Peace unanimously agreed to return to assizes informations against the three persons identified as being in a riotous mob at Aughnavallog that day. He thought it would be seen that the Chief Justice had been misinformed in the matter, and he hoped that it might be a warning to Judges to be more careful in the observations they made at the different counties in their circuits. The advice tendered by The Times the other day to a young Lord who aspired to a seat in that House (Lord Amberley)—namely, to think twice before he spoke once—was, he believed, very applicable to the present case. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by moving the adjournment of the House.


I rise to second the Motion for the adjournment of the House in order to ask the right hon. Baronet the Chief Secretary for Ireland if he will answer the question put to him by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kildare (Mr. Cogan) namely—whether he will lay on the table the Report he has received from the learned Judge upon this subject. The right hon. Baronet has read a passage from a letter, but he has not stated to the House whether that letter is addressed to him personally, or whether it is the Report forwarded by the learned Judge to the Government.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Colonel Forde.)


I read a passage from a private letter. I do not think it will be advisable to produce the Report.


I think it is very advisable that we should have the Report. That report implicates not the magistrates of the county Down but the Law Officers of the Crown, and that is the reason why Her Majesty's Government will not produce it. The hon. and gallant Member, who has communicated with the learned Judge, has told us that he (the Chief Justice) had no fault to find with the magistrates. The fault rests with the Law Officers of the Crown. The informations were in their hands for several days, and they sent down two Queen's counsel and two junior counsel to prosecute the prisoners. It was a Crown prosecution, and not instituted at the instance of the magistrates, and consequently they were not to blame.


said, the proper course to take was, for the hon. Member (Mr. Hennessy) to give notice of moving for the production of the Report. Certainly it was very unusual to produce confidential Reports of the Judges. His right hon. Friend, when pressed for an answer, properly said he would not undertake off hand to produce a document which according to general rule was not produced. An arrangement was made to enable Members to call attention to questions on the Motion to go into Supply on Friday evenings, and that was the second time in which Members, though possessed of the power to bring forward their questions on the Motion to go into supply, moved the adjournment of the House for the purpose of doing so. He considered that that was contrary to the Rules of the House, and he hoped the practice would not be continued.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.