HC Deb 09 August 1875 vol 226 cc771-2

said, he wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland a Question standing in the name of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), respecting certain prosecutions at Belfast. [Cries of "Read!"] He wished to know, whether it was essential that he should occupy the time of the House by reading the Question. [Renewed cries of "Read!"] It was as follows:—Is it a fact that prosecutions were heard before the Belfast stipendiary magistrates on 20th June 1875, for compelling parents to contribute to the support of their children in reformatories, and that orders were made by said magistrates which were afterwards discovered (on a case being defended by a solicitor) to be nullities for want of conformity with the simple requisites of the statute under which the magistrates had made several previous decisions; and, if it be the fact that when the cases came on before the same court on 31st July 1875, that the complainant, Sub-Inspector MacDermott, during the hearing of the cases occupied a seat on the bench, and held conversations with the magistrates, and that the stipendiary magistrates refused to hear evidence for the defence as to the inability of the poor parents to comply with the summonses issued against them, and actually made orders against the parties, who, with their witnesses, had to retire from the court unheard?


Sir, on the 19th of June several persons were summoned to the Belfast police court to show cause why they should not increase their weekly contribution towards their children's support in reformatories. The sitting magistrate, having heard evidence, made the usual orders against the parties; but one case having been defended upon a technical point—namely, short service of notice, all the cases were ordered to be struck out and fresh summonses issued. The same cases were again heard before two magistrates on the 31st of July, when, after a full investigation, including, I believe, an inquiry into the circumstances of the parents, the necessary orders were made. Sub-Inspector MacDermott, who was the nominal complainant on behalf of the public, sat on the bench, apart from the magistrates, during the hearing of these cases; but the magistrate states that he had no communication with him with regard to them.