HC Deb 07 August 1879 vol 249 cc414-20

rose to call attention to the case of Mr. John Croker, and to move— That the punishment inflicted on Mr. John Croker, late Sub-Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary, by reduction in rank in 1867, and subsequent dismissal from that force for offences of which he declared himself to be innocent, without first affording him an opportunity of proving his innocenee before an independent tribunal, was not just, and in the opinion of this House such an opportunity ought now to be given. The facts of the case, he said, were well known to the Irish public. Sub-Inspector Croker, without notice or inquiry, had been dismissed from the first and the second class upon an alleged infringement of the rules of the force, notwithstanding that he offered to prove that he did not violate any rule, and was uniformly refused a hearing. It was notorious, and he (Dr. O'Leary) held it was perfectly true, that one of the very first causes which led to the affair was the promotion of officers over the heads of sub-inspectors, he being left behind. He found that the Inspector General had been in the habit of borrowing money from the officers, and it was those officers who secured promotion. That excited the ire of Inspector Brownrigg, which was further increased by Sub-Inspector Croker having had occasion to report that the son of Inspector Brownrigg, being on duty at Bray, at a time when an officer had fled from duty. That was another black mark against Sub-Inspector Croker Hence, when the next Inspector General came into power, Mr. Croker still continued to protest by letter against the injustice he had suffered, and Inspector General Wood became so annoyed that he declared he would dismiss him altogether, and accordingly, subsequently, he was dismissed out of private pique. Colonel Wood refused to sign the necessary certificate of efficiency, and so the unfortunate man was deprived of the usual allowance, and had since been endeavouring in vain to obtain redress. That was the second time the matter had been brought before the House. The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen), in May, 1876, introduced the matter, and was at the time opposed strongly by the then Chief Secretary for Ireland. At a later stage of the debate, the Solicitor General for Ireland said he could not accept the Motion, because it implied a Vote of Censure upon Colonel Wood, a distinguished public servant, and he further said that since the Chief Secretary had spoken, matters had come to his knowledge with which he had not been acquainted before, and that if the Motion were withdrawn such an inquiry should be instituted as would be satisfactory to all parties, Upon that assurance the hon. Member for Carlow withdrew his Motion. An inquiry had been held in Dublin Castle. That inquiry did not fulfil the promise given in the House of Commons by the Solicitor General for Ireland. It was necessary to obtain a screen for the authorities, and, accordingly, a false issue was raised. The whole inquiry in Dublin was confined to the issue as to whether Mr. Hamilton sent a draft Report to the Treasury, while the merits of the case were not entered into at all. The Report of Mr. Hamilton, it appeared, was lost in the Treasury, so that no answer to the man's appeal for justice was made. The conduct of the inquiry was not made in compliance with the promise given to the hon. Member for Carlow, to the effect that there should be a full inquiry upon the subject. The Commissioner found that Mr. Croker did make the application to the Treasury, and that the document had been lost, and he also certified that there was evidence that Mr. Hamilton had made a draft Report. He further stated that it could not be considered that the paper produced was a correct copy of the draft Report sent in by Mr. Hamilton to the Treasury, of which there was no trace, either in the private papers of Mr. Hamilton, or at the Trea- sury. Thus it was plain that there was no foundation for the excuse which the Government set up as a reason for denying justice to this unfortunate man, and under the circumstances he appealed to the Government to extend merciful consideration to him, and would conclude by moving the Motion set down in his name upon the Paper.


did not think that the Chief Secretary had been rightly informed in the matter. The real question was, whether the fresh inquiry having miscarried, Mr. Croker was not now entitled to another, which would carry out the promise given by the Government to the hon. Member for Car-low (Mr. Bruen). The facts were that Mr. Croker was reduced from the first to the second class of inspectors without an inquiry, and that because he insisted upon inquiry, he was dismissed. Let them look at what took place when this subject last came before the House. It was then admitted that, in the first instance, the information on which the Government acted was inaccurate. If that were so, could the present Chief Secretary rely on the information which he now received from the Constabulary authorities? On the previous occasion, it was urged, as against the veracity of Mr. Croker, that no draft Report of Mr. Hamilton, as he alleged, really existed; but it was now admitted, as the result of the inquiry in Dublin, that there was evidence that such a draft Report did exist. But this was a by-issue, and what was asked was that it should be disregarded, and that there should be an inquiry into the real merits of the case. He begged to second the Motion.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "the punishment inflicted on Mr. John Croker, late Sub-Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary, by reduction in rank in 1867, and subsequent dismissal from that force for offences of which he declared himself to be innocent, without first affording him an opportunity of proving his innocence before an independent tribunal, was not just; and, in the opinion of this House, such an opportunity ought now to be given,"—(Dr. O'Leary,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he regretted that he could not consent to re-open this case. Let the House see its history. There were several reports made against Mr. Croker by successive Inspectors General, by Sir Duncan Macgregor and Sir H. Brownrigg, and as the result of an inquiry?which took place, it was proved that his financial position was, through his own fault, not what it ought to have been. It was also shown that he had violated the regulations of the Service in various respects. When, in 1868, Colonel Wood recommended his dismissal on the ground of a long series of offences, it was laid before the then Chief Secretary, who assented to his dismissal. On the faith of a document circulated by Mr. Croker, the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) brought the matter before the House two years ago. The then Solicitor General promised that there should be a new inquiry. It was said that this promise had not been carried out; but that he denied, the duty of making the inquiry having been deputed to a Queen's Counsel. Mr. Croker appeared before him by counsel. In the course of the proceedings a document was produced which was said to be a Report by the late Mr. Hamilton, the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury; but it was impossible to believe that such a document as that was could, even as a rough draft, have proceeded from a gentleman of the long official experience and the education of the late Mr. Hamilton. The Commissioner reported that, looking to the internal evidence afforded by the document, he was not satisfied that it was a genuine document. That being the case, and having regard to the previous offences alleged against Mr. Croker, the Government were of opinion that there was no cause for further inquiry, and that it was impossible to reinstate Mr. Croker.


denied that there had been a full inquiry into the facts of the case before Mr. De Moleyns, for that gentleman was restricted from going into the merits until he had ascertained whether the alleged draft Report of Mr. Hamilton was a genuine document. That document Mr. Do Moleyns did not report to be a forgery. With respect to the merits of the case, the question as to Mr. Hamilton's Report was not brought before the House in 1876. Mr. Croker, after 30 years' service, was reduced from the rank of inspector to that of sub-inspector on one ground, and one ground only—namely, that he had broken one of the rules of the Constabulary Force in taking a house outside his district with a larger quantity of land about it than three acres. Upon that he was reduced. He had taken a house with seven acres attached to it. His reduction in rank was obtained, he would not say by fraud; but it was obtained indubitably and admittedly by suppression. In the Constabulary Force promotions were made and judgments formed on the conduct of officers with reference to the number of favourable or unfavourable records in each particular case. At the time that his superior asked to have Captain Croker's sentence of reduction approved by the Lord Lieutenant he had 14 favourable records, and only six of them were brought to the notice of the Lord Lieutenant. Captain Croker was, it appeared, transferred to the town of Carlow. There he could not get a suitable residence adjoining the police barracks; but there was a house near the barracks, though outside his district, but according to the rules of the force he could not take it. Besides, that house had seven acres attached to it, and that, again, was another objection. Accordingly, he went to Dublin to consult the Inspector General, and, calling at his office, he was told that the Inspector General was engaged, but that his Secretary would see him. The Secretary conducted the communications, and said there would not be much difficulty in getting permission for Captain Croker to take the house required. The Secretary, closing the interview, said Captain Croker had the Inspector General's permission to take the house with the seven acres of land. These were the admitted facts; and, accordingly, Captain Croker entered into possession of the house and the seven acres, and lived there for some time. Some informer, not knowing that Colonel Wood had given his permission, complained to the Inspector General, who, forgetting the permission he gave, reduced Captain Croker from the rank of inspector to that of sub-inspector. The Lord Lieutenant's sanction to the reduction was obtained upon an ex parte statement in which there was a suppression of favourable records. Captain Croker, feeling very indignant, wrote a hot letter to the Inspector General, which letter was declared insubordinate. The dismissal of Captain Croker was then decided upon; and the Lord Lieutenant, when applied to to confirm the dismissal, refused to do so until the Inspector General gave a positive undertaking that he would never oppose Captain Croker getting a retiring allowance or compensation. On this second occasion the Lord Lieutenant's assent was obtained by the Inspector General stating that he would not oppose the granting of a retiring allowance to Captain Croker. Thereupon, without the inquiry to which he was entitled, Captain Croker was dismissed the force. He was, no doubt, much dissatisfied by having the authorities against him, and protesting his innocence, was willing to take compensation. Captain Croker appealed to Lord Mayo, and he recommended the matter to the Treasury. The Treasury, when asked for the retiring allowance, pointed to the section of the Act requiring that the Inspector General should give a certificate of good conduct. Colonel Wood in this matter actually broke the promise he gave to the Lord Lieutenant, and said he would not give any certificate of the kind. When charged with this afterwards he tried to escape by a quibble, saying that he never promised to give a certificate; that he merely promised he would not oppose the granting of the retiring allowance. In consequence of the withholding of the certificate the compensation was not granted. Then Captain Croker made an appeal to the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), who directed Mr. Hamilton to go and make an inquiry. Lord Mayo wished the retiring allowance to be granted. Mr. Hamilton made a draft Report, which he sent to Captain Croker for his approval, and surely he would never have done so if it had been against that gentleman. But the draft Report and other documents in the case had been lost at the Treasury. In 1816 the facts were brought before the House by the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen), who never referred to Mr. Hamilton's Report. Then the Solicitor General of the day stated that an inquiry would be instituted which would be satisfactory to all parties. Up to that moment no human being had spoken of an inquiry into Mr. Hamilton's Report, and it was idle to say that that was what was contemplated. What was asked for then, and what they asked for now, was a full inquiry into all the facts of the case.


asked permission of the House to withdraw the Amendment.

Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," proposed.