HC Deb 30 July 1875 vol 226 cc219-20

asked Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to the case of Thomas Dwyer, who has been confined in the Gaol of Roscommon since the 24th June 1873, under a warrant of the Judge of the Court of Probate in Dublin, for an alleged Contempt of Court by the non-payment of costs given against him in that Court; whether such an imprisonment for upwards of two years is legal, having regard to the Acts for the abolition of imprisonment for debt; and, whether the Executive Government have taken or will take any steps for the discharge of the said prisoner, who is still detained in custody?


Sir, since the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) was good enough to postpone his Question from last Wednesday, I have communicated with the Judge of the Probate Court under whose order the prisoner Dwyer was sent to Roscommon Gaol, and he has favoured me with the following information:— Dwyer was defendant in a probate suit in which there was a verdict and a decree against him with costs. He was arrested for non-payment of these costs under the provisions of the Probate Act, and it was my duty to make the order for his imprisonment, unless I was prevented by the operation of the Irish Act for the abolition of imprisonment for debt. That Act, which was passed in 1872, and came into operation on the 1st of January, 1873, forbids arrest for money payable 'in respect of a cause or suit arisen after the passing of the Act;' but in this case the cause of suit was complete on the 14th of June, 1872, and the Act did not pass until the 6th of the following August. Sir, I have no right to question, nor do I for a moment question, the complete propriety of the view thus taken by the very learned Judge, nor have the Executive Government any intention, or, indeed, any power, to interfere for the release of the prisoner; but I may say that, if I am rightly informed of the circumstances of his position, there is no hardship in the case, as he can at any time and without expense apply for his discharge under the 24th and 25th sections of the Irish Bankruptcy Act of 1872.