HC Deb 22 July 1875 vol 225 cc1813-4

asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, To explain the course taken by the Government at the Kilkenny Assizes in the case of the prisoners indicted for riot at Callan, and to state whether a nolle prosequi was entered on the part of the Crown in consequence of the non-attendance of witnesses for the prosecution; and, whether these witnesses had been bound over to prosecute in the usual form; why, if so, seeing that it is admitted there had been a serious breach of the peace, the trial of the prisoners was not postponed, and steps taken to enforce the attendance of the witnesses?


, in reply, said, that the action of the Government in this matter was confined to the usual course of deciding that a prosecution should be instituted, and in pursuance of that decision witnesses were bound over to prosecute in the usual form. The Bill was sent up to the Grand Jury at the Kilkenny Assizes, and when it came before the consideration of the Grand Jury it contained four counts, and upon two of these counts material evidence was not forthcoming, because the care-taker of the chapel, whose evidence, in the absence of Father O'Keeffe, had been relied upon, to show the amount of damage which had been done, although he was at the time in the town of Kilkenny, did not choose to answer the summons to attend as a witness. The Grand Jury were, therefore, unable to return a true bill upon the most important counts in the indictment. The conduct of the prosecution was, as was always the case, in the hands of the learned counsel who were engaged by the Crown, one of whom on this occasion happened to be a very eminent member of the Irish Bar—Mr. Serjeant Armstrong. Finding the bill had only been partly returned, the counsel for the Crown, in the exercise of their discretion, entered a nolle prosequi, believing that, as the evidence on which they principally relied was not forthcoming, it would not be advisable to proceed with the remaining counts of the indictment. It was better to enter a nolle prosequi, as a fresh prosecution might, if it were thought advisable, be instituted at the next Assizes. He might add that Father O'Keeffe himself wrote to the Crown solicitor some few days before the Assizes, and expressed his own desire, so far as he was concerned, that the prosecution should not be proceeded with, and that it might be withdrawn.