§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 5 (Penalties).
MR. SEXTON moved, in page 3, line 4, to leave out "a divisional justice," and insert "two divisional justices." The Amendment referred to the second sentence of the clause. That sentence recited that—
For the purposes of this Act, the court of summary jurisdiction shall, in the police districts of Dublin metropolis, be constituted of a divisional justice acting for the said district, and elsewhere in Ireland, shall be constituted of two or more justices of the peace sitting in petty sessions, of whom one shall be a resident magistrate, or of one resident magistrate sitting alone in petty session.
He proposed to leave out the words "a divisonal justice," and to substitute "two divisional justices." In the cases that were likely to occur under the Act, difficulties and delicate questions would
often arise, as there might, for instance, be questions connected with the hearing of cases under the Act which would involve compensation to persons for the seizure of arms. There might also be cases where persons would be brought up on the charge of having illegally imported arms, or ammunition, and the question might arise whether they had bought or sold the arms wilfully. That question might involve considerations of a somewhat difficult nature. The Government last night accepted the Amendment moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan), which provided that if, upon the hearing of the charge, the justices should be of opinion that there were circumstances in the case which rendered it inexpedient to inflict any punishment, they should have power to dismiss the person charged without proceeding to a conviction. The word "inexpedient" might involve considerations requiring in their settlement a large amount of discrimination; and he thought that cases of that kind could not be properly tried before one magistrate, no matter how able that magistrate might be. He did not intend to say, nor was he aware that it could be justly said, that the Divisional Justices of Dublin were wanting in competency or judicial ability. But the tendency was, in cases of this kind, involving not only the purses but the liberties of individuals, that there would be questions of delicacy and difficulty concerning matters in which the public might be largely concerned and affected in which it might be desirable that an opportunity should be afforded for a consultation between various magistrates. Undoubtedly the cases that would come before the Court would involve political feeling in a large degree, and would be watched with keen interest by the general public. In the City of Dublin there were five Divisional Justices, and the two Courts having jurisdiction to sit were situated within a few yards of each other. He therefore submitted that without dislocating the machinery by which those Courts were at present worked, it would be very easy to secure the services of two Divisional Justices whenever a case came on for hearing under the provisions of this Act. By this means there would be no danger of committing an act of injustice, or of engendering the feeling that owing to
the fact that the case was decided by one magistrate only a certain amount of oppression, together with a want of temper, of tact, and of judicial spirit had been displayed.
In page 3, line 4, to leave out the words "a divisional justice," and insert the words "two divisional justices."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
This Amendment would only effect the City of Dublin. It would have no effect whatever throughout the rest of Ireland. The proposal in the Bill is that—For the purposes of this Act, the court of summary jurisdiction shall, in the police district of Dublin metropolis, be constituted of a divisional justice acting for the said district.The Divisional Justice in Dublin represents the police magistrate in Dublin. My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Ireland tells me that in Dublin there are only three Divisional Justices at present; and the hon. Member for Sligo proposes that two of these should be required to sit in order to adjudicate in the cases that may arise under this Bill. Now, matters of much more importance than those which can arise under this measure are adjudicated upon every day by a London police magistrate; and I do not see why the same thing should not be done by a Divisional Justice in Dublin. It is altogether unnecessary to require that two should sit. That is a proposal that would be full of inconvenience to the administration of police justice in that country. It seems to me entirely uncalled for; and I venture to say that there is not a single day in which the Divisional Justices of Dublin are not called upon to adjudicate upon far more serious matters than are likely to arise under this Bill. Then, again, the rule in England always is that one stipendiary magistrate should be authorized to do that which any two justices can do in petty sessions. Small offences may be decided by one justice. There are many cases of a graver character that can only be dealt with by two justices; but the same cases could be dealt with by one stipendiary magistrate in England, because he is con- 662 sidered equal to two justices. That is the general law. By the Statute of 1842 it is lawful for any one such Divisional Justice in Dublin to do what can be done by two justices in other parts of the country. That is the principle upon which the police law is administered; and I see no possible reason why one police magistrate should not be sufficient to act under the provisions of this Bill.
§ MR. DAWSON
wished to pay his tribute, such as it was, to the satisfactory manner in which the Dublin magistrates performed their duties in Dublin; hut, at the same time, he thought that in critical times like these it was necessary that two magistrates should act, and not one. There might be an important seizure of arms in Dublin, or of a case brought from the Provinces to Dublin, seeing that Dublin might be regarded as the emporium of arms. Now, the magistrates themselves were chosen by the Government who happened to be in power from among the prominent individuals who were members of the different political Parties in Ireland; and if it should so happen that one of the magistrates selected from a particular Party was not considered popular, his decision might be looked upon with something like suspicion, and it might be contended that he had been induced to give his decision from Party motives. He candidly admitted that that would be a most flimsy ground of objection; but in order to have the decision of the magistrate received with respect, and every possible confidence, he thought, in justice to themselves, in dealing with cases of this sort, one magistrate should not be left to give a decision alone, but that two magistrates should sit together. Personally, he had great confidence in the decision of a Dublin Bench of magistrates; but it would increase his confidence if he knew there would be two magistrates instead of having the entire responsibility intrusted to one.
§ DR. COMMINS
regretted that he was compelled to differ from what had fallen from the hon. Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton). A Dublin magistrate sitting in Dublin was on a level with the stipendiary magistrate in England, and was a man who must have had seven years' experience at the Bar before he was qualified for the appointment. He believed that a Dublin magistrate was 663 a man of as great ability and of as high a character as any stipendiary magistrate in England. The theory was that a stipendiary magistrate was equal to two ordinary justices rolled into one. It was proposed, in this case, to leave all matters that would arise under this Bill to the discretion of one of these magistrates; and he thought there was an additional ground for arguing that the decision of the magistrate would be given in an impartial and proper manner. In Dublin there was a daily Press, which was not the case in other parts of Ireland; and divisional magistrates, acting under the surveillance of the daily Press, would be unlikely to do anything that was not strictly just and proper. He would therefore ask his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo not to press the Amendment, because he felt that one Divisional Justice in Dublin was often much better even than two justices in any other part of Ireland, and better able to deal with any cases that might arise under the measure.
§ MR. FINIGAN
wished to bear out what had been stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo (Mr. Sexton), who, he was afraid, had been a little misunderstood by his hon. Friend the Member for Roscommon (Dr. Commies). His hon. Friend the Member for Sligo cast no aspersion whatever upon the Magisterial Bench of Dublin. On the contrary, he rather bore testimony to their judicial spirit and their general fair dealing; but his hon. Friend urged—and he (Mr. Finigan) took it to be a very sound argument—that this Act, not being within the ordinary law, but being quite beyond the ordinary law, and the measure one which partook somewhat of a political character, it would be much better, because it was out of the ordinary law, that the conduct of the business which would arise under the Act should also be beyond the ordinary course of procedure. In that sense he fully supported his hon. Friend. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo that, although the Magisterial Bench of Dublin would compare favourably with that of London, or any great City throughout the Empire, at the same time, it was only wise to take as many precautions as possible without interfering with the judicial and magisterial arrangements of the Courts in Dublin. He did not 664 believe there would be very many cases under the Act; but if there were two justices instead of one, the public would have greater confidence in the law, and in its administration. He therefore trusted that the Government would either accept the Amendment, or give some intimation that its spirit would be really carried out, when the Act came into operation.
§ MR. BIGGAR
wished to make one or two observations in reference to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman very properly said that these Divisional Justices were persons who knew their business perfectly well under a normal condition of affairs; but the right hon. Gentleman did not take into account that there was to be no appeal from the decision of the magistrate, and if there was any animosity in giving an incorrect judgment there would be no remedy for the party arrested. Now, in the case of Election Petitions, when they were placed under a special Act of Parliament, it was held that it was not only desirable, but absolutely necessary, to have two Judges; that it was not desirable that a person should be convicted simply upon the decision of one Judge, but that there should be at least two; and it was a further maxim of law that every accused person should have the benefit of the doubt. He thought the same doctrine should apply to the case of persons who were brought up under the provisions of this measure, especially when there was to be no appeal from the decision. Another point raised by the right hon. Gentleman was that it would be inconvenient for the Divisional Justices to act together in deciding these cases. Now, he (Mr. Biggar) thought, on the contrary, it would be a great convenience. These gentlemen had not a great deal to do. They received liberal salaries, and he did not think it was at all unreasonable that two of them should be required to sit together when cases came on for decision under a special Act of this sort. The work was not likely to be heavy, for, in all probability, there would not be more than half-a-dozen decisions in the course of the year; and he failed to see that any substantial objection had been raised to the Amendment.
§ MR. LEAMY
submitted that if the Amendment he had moved last night had 665 been accepted by the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill, there would have been no necessity for the present one. But, as that Amendment was not accepted, and seeing that the person sentenced under this Act would not have the right of appeal, it was only fair that he should be tried by two justices. He certainly saw no sufficient argument against the Amendment in the question of inconvenience. The Divisional Justices in Dublin were by no means overburdened with work at present.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 203; Noes 23: Majority 180.—(Div. List, No. 128.)
MR. SEXTON moved, in page 3, line 7, to leave out from "or," inclusive, to end of Clause. The hon. Member remarked that this Amendment applied to the proceedings of the rural Courts, the principle of which the Government refused to apply the Courts in the Metropolis of Dublin. The clause said that—
In the police district of Dublin metropolis, the court of summary jurisdiction shall be constituted of a divisional justice, and that elsewhere in Ireland it shall be constituted of two or more justices of the peace sitting in petty sessions, one of whom shall be a resident magistrate.
The clause then went on to say—" or of one resident magistrate sitting alone in petty sessions." He proposed to leave out the final clause, so that it would be necessary to have every case decided by two or more justices, one of whom should be a resident magistrate. The clause, as it stood, appeared to involve a contradiction, because, having laid down that the Court should consist of two justices, of whom one should be a resident magistrate, it then went on to say that one alone should constitute a Court. Surely that involved a serious contradiction. The right hon. Gentleman said that to require two Divisional Justices to sit in Dublin would create great inconvenience, because there were so few of them. This would not be the case hero. There were several unpaid magistrates in each Petty Sessional Division, and three or four score in every county, so that there would be no difficulty, where they had a resident magistrate, in getting an unpaid magistrate to sit with him. Nevertheless, the proposition of the Government was that a resident magistrate, sitting in petty
sessions, should constitute a Court. He presumed that that meant sitting in a regular petty session court, on a regular day, and on such an occasion as that he imagined that an unpaid magistrate could easily be found to sit with him. If a regular magistrate were to constitute a petty sessions, it would be an exceedingly petty sessions indeed. He objected to the jurisdiction of one man, however able and impartial he might be; and he said nothing against the impartiality or ability of the resident magistrates in Ireland; but he objected, and thought it was exceedingly adverse to the public interest and tended to excite injury and danger to the public, that any one man should assume despotic power and jurisdiction in cases of this sort. He might have to decide, for instance, whether a man was wilfully in the possession of arms, or whether he was acting in ignorance. The Government would be required to pay compensation in money to particular persons, and, in all probability, this fact would be kept in view by the resident magistrate when any case came before him of a person charged with wilfully keeping arms. It would certainly be much more safe that two or three persons should consider the point than one. One man was liable to err, and the homely maxim that "two heads were better than one" was certainly correct in this instance, even though the second head might be that of an unpaid magistrate of Ireland. Then, again, it would be necessary to consider the question whether the person engaged in the sale of arms had any knowledge of the proclamation, or was acting wilfully. That was a very important consideration. The Court would also have to consider whether it was expedient that punishment should be inflicted, and in considering the question of expediency other questions would be involved. Large questions of public interest were involved, such, for instance, as whether it would not conduce to the peace and harmony of the locality that a man, although technically guilty, should be let off without punishment. Surely that question was not one that a resident magistrate in Ireland was competent to deal with alone. A resident magistrate in Ireland was only a sort of upper police official; and the tendency of police officials of every grade was to trust, with too ready credence, the evi-
deuce of police officers, from every grade, down to the lowest. In these cases, the evidence would be that of the police. It would be the police who would make the search. It would be the resident magistrate, sitting on the Bench, who would authorize the search; and it would be the resident magistrate who would sit as the sole and final Judge. The resident magistrate might be the very man who had issued the warrant of the Lord Lieutenant; and he would, consequently, include a startling combination of the office of witness and executioner. The resident magistrate might be the man who went, in the first place, to the house of the accused and found the arms. The police officer would give evidence of the finding; but the resident magistrate, who was present when the arms were found, would sit on the Bench, and, of course, would find the man guilty, and sentence him to imprisonment. This might be a very convenient combination of offices; but it was certainly neither a fair nor a Constitutional one. It was, therefore, most desirable that they should associate with the resident magistrates some other magistrates, who, though necessarily landlords, and therefore likely to be prejudiced against the accused, would, at any rate, be to some extent independent, and would not be paid salaried officials of the police force. A resident magistrate, however just in his original notions, by mere force of habit, in the course of years, came almost to regard the oath of a policeman as sacred, and as a thing that ought not to be disputed. He solemnly appealed to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary not to cast the fortunes of poor men in Ireland into the hands of this class of officials. It was most desirable that the resident magistrate should have with him upon the Bench some other man who would not have the same official disposition to believe the evidence of the police whatever it might be. If the Government refused to give them the slight security of associating one other magistrate with the resident magistrate, of course the general public opinion in Ireland with regard to the resident magistrate who would be required to act would be that the inquiry was simply a farce, and a foregone conclusion. In the first instance, the magistrate would go with the police and find the arms; then, by
a startling transformation, he would change the character of searcher into that of Judge. He (Mr. Sexton) protested against such a proceeding, not only as unjust, but as a direct violation of the Constitution.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 7, to leave out from "or," inclusive, to end of Clause.—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
It is impossible to accept this Amendment. The speech of the hon. Member affords conclusive proof that he has entirely misunderstood the object of this clause. He finds it convenient to suggest that it is even likely that the man who is to sit in trial upon the case will be the man who would execute the search warrant. I perfectly agree with him that if such a thing were likely to occur the Irish people would believe the trial to be a farce. But the hon. Member must know perfectly well that under no circumstances could such a thing occur, and it is to be regretted that he should occupy the time of the House of Commons by gravely putting forward such a proposition. If the person appointed to execute the warrant were the police magistrate everyone knows that that police magistrate would not sit upon the Bench to try the case. I do not wish to say anything that may be considered offensive; but I must say that to advance an argument of this kind is a sheer and simple waste of time. The provisions of the Bill are exactly the same as those contained in the Act of 1870; and the Act of 1870, in regard to the summary jurisdiction of the magistrates, proceeds on the same lines, both in Ireland and in England. One justice is sufficient to adjudicate in cases where the offences are slight. In graver offences, two justices are required; but in Ireland, as in England, one police magistrate is considered equivalent to two justices. That is exactly the course that is followed here. In Ireland, so far as class interests are concerned, there is more security than in this country. In cases connected with the "Game Preservation Act," two justices who have generally an interest in the laud are sufficient to constitute a Court; but, in the cases dealt with by the Bill, we give security 669 that there shall always be a resident police magistrate, who is supposed to be free from all class interests. The hon. Member says that a police magistrate is connected with the police, and, therefore, one who will readily believe the police. If he knew as much of the police magistrates as I do he would never have made a statement of that character. I say that, on the whole, police magistrates are always suspicious of police evidence. The police magistrate is a man of much more experience than a local justice in the administration of the Criminal Law, and it is for that reason that he has the jurisdiction given to him of two local justices. This clause has been carefully framed for the protection of the interests of those people who are likely to be affected by it. It provides that all cases shall be heard at the petty sessions. Well, the justices will be there, there may be a dozen justices in attendance; but still it is required that there should be present the experience and authority of a resident police magistrate. But by the Act of 1870 any magistrate appointed to act in the Police Courts of Dublin Metropolis, or any stipendiary magistrate sitting in petty sessions, may do alone all the Act authorizes to be done by two justices of the peace at petty sessions. That is the law—namely, that one police magistrate can do alone what two justices in petty session may do. I do not see that there is any plausible reason for departing from this arrangement.
§ MR. BIGGAR
, said, the right hon. Gentleman did not seem to know what sort of men the Irish magistrates were. He was not going to bring any charge against the resident magistrates in Ireland, because, to speak candidly, he certainly preferred one resident magistrate to two justices; but, at the same time, there was no harm in pointing out to the right hon. Gentleman that a large portion of the present resident magistrates of Ireland were gentlemen who had been sub-inspector's of police, and during all their official lives had been in connection with the police force. They were, therefore, very likely to look upon all prisoners that came before them very much from a policeman's point of view. He knew, personally, one resident magistrate who was previously at the head of the detective department, and a sub-inspector. He was, therefore, closely 670 connected with the police force, and it was only likely that his prejudices would be in favour of police evidence. There was also another description of resident magistrates—namely, gentlemen who had been in the Army. Of course these gentlemen would have no real or substantial knowledge of law beyond that possessed by an ordinary justice. Indeed, they would not be as competent to express an opinion upon a legal question as an ordinary justice who had been for a long time upon the Bench; so that, in point of fact, the resident magistrates of Ireland had not a high standard of qualification for the position they occupied. The right hon. Gentleman had strongly objected to the argument of the hon. Member for Sligo as to the execution of the warrants. Now, he thought he was correct in saying that, considering the resident magistrates were in very close official communication with the Government from time to time, although practically they might not themselves execute the warrants, yet in all probability the warrants would go officially to them from Dublin Castle, and they would be as directly concerned in the execution of them, and in the sending out of the police to make the search, as if they were actually present during the time the search was taking place. The argument of the right hon. Gentleman against associating a second magistrate with the resident magistrate was by no means conclusive. No doubt when the case came on in petty sessions there would be various magistrates belonging to the neighbourhood present; but it seemed very likely, from the fact that one resident magistrate was taken to be sufficient, that he would form a special Court of his own, simply for the purpose of considering these cases. It would, therefore, not be a petty sessions on the ordinary Court day in a petty sessions district. He hoped the Government would agree to the Amendment, and thus afford an opportunity for the cooperation of some gentlemen of local knowledge with the resident magistrate.
§ MR. CALLAN
thought the Home Secretary had been guilty of a confusion of terms. In arguing against this case, he spoke of "police magistrates," as if the reference was to a police magistrate. Now, there was no such person known in Ireland as a police magistrate. There was the Divisional Justice, who adminis- 671 tered law and justice in the Police Courts of Dublin; and he, as was well known, had no connection with the police. But there was another class of magistrates, known as resident magistrates, and described in that way in Acts of Parliament. He thought it would save a great deal of confusion in the English mind if they were called what they really were—namely, stipendiary magistrates. They were paid from £5 to £10 per week, the same as an artizan in the higher branches of trade, and they ought to be called stipendiary, and not resident magistrates. It was considered a great thing to be known by a high-sounding title, and therefore a "resident magistrate" tacked on R.M. to his name. Not long ago he saw attached to a man's name "E.O.S.B.," and out of curiosity he asked what those letters meant. He found it was a man who was paid £15 a-year as Inspector of Nuisances, and who was called "Executive Officer of the Sanitary Board of Ireland. On the same principle the stipendiary magistrates in Ireland were called "resident magistrates;" but he believed they objected to the title of stipendiary. He would have no objection to give them the name of resident magistrate, providing that they did not draw their salary. But he thought when they continued to draw their stipends—and they were very liberal stipends too—that they should be called, as they were in England, and as they were really in fact, stipendiary magistrates. The Home Secretary had exhibited a want of knowledge of the state of affairs in Ireland which was lamentable in anyone who undertook to rule Ireland. He thought it was one of the greatest mistakes ever made not to appoint an Irishman as Chief Secretary, or, at any rate, to recruit some Irish Members below the Gangway, and constitute them advisers to the Chief Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary spoke of "police magistrates," which was an absurdity, because nobody ever heard of such an authority in Ireland. The magistrate in question was the resident magistrate, and it was he who would instruct the police to execute the warrants, and it was he, also, who would then have to sit in judgment upon the different cases. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the Act of 1870. If the right hon. Gentleman would cause inquiry to be made among the per- 672 manent officers of Ireland, he would find that in the half dozen cases which had occurred under the Act of 1870 and 1871 the operations of the police in searching for arms were superintended in person by the resident magistrate, who afterwards adjudicated upon the case. This was a matter within his (Mr. Callan's) own knowledge. Under the Act of 1870 and 1871 when in operation the resident magistrate superintended the search authorized by the warrant, and when the whole was completed the trial was presided over by the same man—namely, the resident magistrate; consequently the charge of the right hon. and learned Gentleman against the hon. Member for Sligo of using an absurd and improper argument recoiled upon the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself. The resident magistrates were generally broken-down gentlemen, retired military officers, men who had been unsuccessful in their first attempts to get on in life, and as a dernier resort they were pitchforked into the position of resident magistrate as the only thing they were fit for. This was œrtainly the case with a large number of them. He would, however, remind the Committee that in 1879, when they had the question of intrusting Election Petitions to one Judge before them, the feeling of the House was so strongly against the continuance of that system that it was agreed at once to appoint two Judges. Surely, if it was undesirable to place one Judge in supreme authority on such a question it was desirable and essential, seeing that in this case the liberty of the subject was involved, that they should at least associate two resident magistrates together if they had an objection to associate a local justice with the ordinary residential magistrate. There must be cases in which they could not get two resident magistrates, and in that case he could not see what objection there could be to the assistance of a local magistrate, except that which showed the utter distrust of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the local magistracy. It was evident that they considered the local magistrates were not fit to be intrusted with the exercise of such a power. It was not unfrequently the case that the one resident magistrate was a broken-down gentleman, often of advanced age; and he could not conceive why such an in- 673 dividual should be considered a sufficient authority to send a man to prison for three months without the power of appeal; while the local magistrates, who knew the people, and were acquainted with their character, were not to be trusted. He did not think his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo had much chance of inducing the Government to accept his Amendment as it stood. He would, therefore, ask his hon. Friend to withdraw it in order to qualify it by inserting instead of the words "resident magistrate" the words "stipendiary magistrate," so that it might be known what the real character of these men was, and the Government should no longer give them a title which did not belong to them. They were stipendiary magistrates in reality, and by that name they ought to be called. It might be said that "a rose by any name would smell as sweet;" but he believed that the title of stipendiary magistrate was not one that would smell at all sweet in the nostrils of the Irish people.
§ MR. DAWSON
thought he ought to add to what had been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo that a great deal of the distinction he had drawn in the matter was fully borne out by an eminent Judge of Constitutional Law—the late Chief Justice Whiteside, who complained in open Court of the way in which the local justices were daily required to surrender important functions into the hands of the resident magistrate, and who regarded this practice as a breach of the Constitution. The Chief Justice had more than once complained of the way in which supreme power was placed in the hands of particular individuals, because they happened to be Government officials. He maintained his hon. Friend was quite right in asking for two magistrates—one of them paid and the other independent of Government influence, which a paid magistrate was not. This number was necessary to a just and fair decision, especially in Ireland, the state of which was peculiar and abnormal in everything affecting the administration of justice.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, a resident magistrate in Ireland was, to all intents and purposes, a police officer. He was under the impression that his hon. Friend, by his Amendment, was endeavouring to prevent a person acting 674 both as prosecutor and Judge. If he had been correctly informed with regard to the functions of resident magistrates in Ireland, they acted in cases of a complicated character as detectives of persons engaged in crime. They would, therefore, first act as detectors, and then as Judges of the criminal. Supposing his information were incorrect, the fact remained that the resident magistrate was far more directly the agent of the Government than a justice of the peace. If the choice lay between an ordinary justice of the peace and a Government official, he thought his hon. Friend would prefer the latter. But the question was not whether the agent of the Government was a more responsible and trustworthy Judge than a class partizan, but whether a single agent of the Government should be allowed to adjudicate in these cases. No doubt, the agent of the Government was, to a large extent, a deeply committed partizan. It was also the misfortune of Irish Members to be engaged in a contest with the Treasury Bench. Every agent of the Government, too, was at present an agent of one political Party which fought against another; and it was under such circumstances as these that Irish Members were asked to intrust the liberties of their constituents to the agent and representative of the political Party to whom both were hostile. The proposal had only to be mentioned to meet with condemnation. In his opinion, there had not been a single Amendment laid before the Committee in the course of the debates which had taken place on this Bill with greater justice and reason than the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Sligo.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. CALLAN moved to leave out, in line 7, the word "resident," in order to insert the word "stipendiary." The latter word was common in English Acts, and if it were used in the present Act it would remove the inaccuracy of calling a man resident who was not resident. For instance, the magistrate of Dundalk lived 18 Irish miles away from Dundalk, which was equal to 23 or 24 English miles away from Dundalk; yet he was called a resident magistrate, and that gentleman received a stipend of £600 or 675 £700 a-year. He was in no sense a better man than the stipendiary magistrates in England; and he did not see why he should not be called a stipendiary magistrate because he lived in Ireland. The word "resident" appeared in the foregoing portions of the Bill; but upon Report it was his intention to alter them to stipendiary.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ MR. HEALY
said, the Bill would appear to have been drafted so as to preclude all amendment on the subject of the proposal he was about to make in reference to trial by jury under this Act. It was his desire, and that of his hon. Friends, that trial by jury should not be abolished in Ireland by the Bill, as was clearly intended by the Government in providing that—Any person acting in contravention of this Act shall be liable, if convicted before a court of summary jurisdiction, to be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three months.The Amendment was taken from the Act of 1875; and was it to be said that less was given to Ireland by the Liberals in 1881 than by the Tories in 1875? It was nothing to the point to say that the sentences under the former Act were longer. The question was one of principle, and in that respect it mattered nothing whether a man got three months unjustly on trial by jury or more—the principle was the same. His point was that, as the clause stood, the cases arising under the Act would be tried by the landlord magistrates of the district, who would not form an impartial tribunal. Therefore, it was desirable that the prisoners should be brought before a tribunal that was impartial. No person would be likely to claim this right of going before a jury unless his case was so good as to make him quite certain of justice, and unless he thought the Bench before which he was tried would give him no chance of justice.
In page 3, line 9, at end of Clause, to add the words "Provided always, That nothing in this Act shall prevent the person charged, if he himself desire it, from having the option of being returned for trial before a jury."—(Mr. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."676
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
It is quite true that under the Act of 1875 there was the option given to the person charged to decline summary jurisdiction and appeal to a higher tribunal, where he would be tried before a jury. There is no concealment of the fact that the Government do not consider that, under the present circumstances in Ireland, it is possible to admit the same clause into this Bill. The Bill for the suspension of the Act of Habeas Corpus has been passed upon the very ground that, in the present state of Ireland, there is no reasonable probability of obtaining the evidence of witnesses, or juries who would give a verdict against any person charged with an agrarian crime. Therefore, to have introduced a Bill of this kind, with the alternative which would allow persons to escape from it by appealing to juries who they knew would not convict, in spite of the clearest and most conclusive evidence, would have been for the Government to stultify themselves. For this reason, we have followed, not the precedent of 1875, but that of the Act of 1870, upon the principle contained in the 26th clause of which this Bill has been framed, because the circumstances of Ireland at the present time are similar to what they were in 1870, and not to the circumstances of the year 1875. In 1875, the condition of Ireland was one of normal tranquillity—it was as tranquil as it ever was. We were in hope that, in 1880, Ireland was so tranquil that a Peace Preservation Act and an Arms Act might have been dispensed with; we tried the experiment, and I deeply regret to say that the experiment was a total failure. We waited to see what would be the condition of Ireland without coercive legislation, and the condition of Ireland is what we have seen in the last six months. Therefore I say that the condition of Ireland now—and I say it knowing what I speak—is what it was at the height of the Fenian conspiracy in 1870. ["No, no!"] I do not accept the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, because they say that there is no Fenianism now. My case is that the present movement is nothing else than Fenianism. We have evidence abundant and complete that it is nothing but Fenianism under another name. Its objects are precisely those of the Fenian conspiracy. The reason why we adopt 677 summary jurisdiction without reference to juries is that we consider, in the present state of Ireland, summary jurisdiction should be exercised, as it was, under the Act of 1870, without the alternative of trial by jury, as under the Act of 1875.
§ MR. HERMON
hoped the Amendment would not be pressed to a division, which would shorten the time for discussing the important question of the limitation of the Act.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
said the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had made one really important admission in his speech when he acknowledged that the main object of the Bill was to abolish trial by jury. This candid admission was now made for the first time; and, the right hon. Gentleman having made it, it would considerably alter the character of the present discussion. Much had been said of the difficulty of getting witnesses to come forward under the alleged terrorism. But they had been many times told, in the course of these discussions, that it was not the intention of the Government to abolish trial by jury in Ireland. He ventured to think that some, at least, of the Liberals below the Gangway, had they been told that this Bill was meant to abolish trial by jury, would not have given such a faithful adherence to the Government policy. The right hon. Gentleman now told the Committee that the object of the Bill was to abolish trial by jury for certain offences for the space of five years; and that, of course, entirely altered the complexion of the case. One reason given for this was that the right hon. Gentleman declared that the condition of Ireland now was the same as it was in 1870, when the Fenian conspiracy was in operation. The right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten the state of Ireland in 1870. The existence of the Fenian conspiracy in that year had never been suggested. It was in 1867 and 1868 that it existed. Every trace of it had vanished in the year 1870, and the Habeas Corpus Act had been restored in 1869. In 1870, the House was engaged in passing the Irish Land Act, and no one thought of the Fenian conspiracy. If the condition of things was the same then as in 1870, the Bill ought to be withdrawn, for there was no occasion for it.
§ Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR
had been under the impression that the right hon. Gen- 678 tleman had somewhat amended his manners—["Oh, oh!"]—his rhetorical manners—and that the Committee would be spared the excursions into the realms of fancy and vituperation which had characterized his speeches on former stages of the Bill. Indeed, the depression on his features had seemed to indicate that he had learnt there was danger in the rhetorical gifts with which he was so largely endowed, and that he was about to continue the discussion of the Bill in a sensible manner. But the speech to which the Committee had just listened had dispelled the illusion. The right hon. Gentleman said, with regard to Fenianism, that Ireland was in exactly the same position as it was in 1870, and that in that year Fenianism was at its height.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
What I said a moment ago, and what I say now, is that Fenianism has never been extinct in Ireland any more than a volcano is extinct; and there are times when its eruptions are more active than at others.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
said, that general proposition did not affect the comparison of the present time with the year 1870, when, as the right hon. Gentleman alleged, the Fenian conspiracy was at its height; but when, in reality, the volcano had spent itself, and its smouldering fires were awaiting the time when such language as that of the right hon. Gentleman should fan them into a flame. If Ireland were in the condition now that she was in during the year 1870, so far as Fenianism was concerned, then he thought all cause for abolishing trial by jury was gone. He was glad his hon. Friend the Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had pinned the right hon. Gentleman to the declaration which he had made. Why, he remembered the air of surprise with which the organs of the right hon. Gentleman and his Party declared that no such idea had ever occurred to the Ministry as to suspend trial by jury in Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman waited until the last 60 minutes arrived at the end of which he could, by the exercise of his autocratic power, suspend the debate, in order to startle the people by his extraordinary statement. The right hon. Gentleman having had the enterprize to refer to the Act of 1875 as inappreciable to the present condition of Ireland, he 679 reminded him that the Act in question, which had been passed by a Conservative Administration, allowed the principle of trial by jury refused by the present Liberal Government. The right hon. Gentleman said they must look to the year 1870 for a precedent, and that the circumstances of 1875 were quite different to those of the present year. But he (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) pointed out that all the difference was more than accounted for by the fact omitted to be mentioned by the Home Secretary that in 1875 the right hon. Gentleman was sitting upon the Opposition Benches. What were the circumstances of the year 1875? The Liberal Party were then in Opposition, and a proposal was made to the House similar in effect to that under consideration, but stronger in operation, because it gave the accused person, not only the right to demand a public trial, but a right of appeal to a Court of Assize. But, said the right hon. Gentleman, the circumstances of 1881 were different from those of 1875. Of course they were different, inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman was then in Opposition, and because the Liberal Party did not want now the Irish votes which they wanted then.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, the right hon. Gentleman had displayed, not only with regard to Fenianism, but also with regard to Irish juries, an easy and graceful superiority to the facts of the case.
§ MR. SEXTON
said, he had not spoken on that Amendment before. If the right hon. Gentleman would take the trouble to refer to the authorities, he would find that Dr. Hancock, in 1869, congratulated the country on its complete restoration and tranquillity. One might have expected from a Gentleman in such a position that he would endeavour to obtain some slight acquaintance with the facts before he stood up and made such statements. He ventured to say that, in all the long series of mistakes and errors which had distinguished the career of the present Administration, there had been none more flagrant or ridiculous than the mistake of virtually abolishing trial by jury in a largo number of cases. Further, he (Mr. Sexton) protested against the statement of the right hon. Gentle- 680 man that Irish juries had not performed their duties. The statistics showed that in 215 cases laid before juries last year 83 verdicts of guilty were returned. The convictions amounted to 40 per cent of the charges, a proportion not far removed from the convictions in all civilized countries in ordinary times. The difference was so trifling that it could not justify the course taken by the Government with regard to the Amendment. He held that the right hon. Gentleman had once more proved that there was no necessary or permanent relation between metaphor and fact, and that such vulgar things as addition and substraction, good enough as they were for school boys and shopkeepers, ought not to be allowed to fetter the intellect of a Secretary of State.
§ MR. GILL
wished to protest against the statement that the present agitation in Ireland was Fenianism under another name. The right hon. Gentleman ought to know that the clergy of Ireland had opposed Fenianism in every way they could, and that they actively assisted the present agitation as a means of keeping the people out of secret organizations. He was sure there were thousands of persons in Ireland who would never have joined in the present agitation if they had had the slightest idea that it was in any way connected with Fenianism.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
had just received a telegram from Galway which showed how the law worked without trial by jury. Portions of the telegram related to the arrest of tenants on certain estates, the owners of which he would not mention, for refusing to pay rents which had been called, but which he would not say were excessive—100 per cent above the Government valuation. He trusted that Her Majesty's Government look into the facts of the cases, and would allow them to be the subject of judicial investigation. He knew some of the parties, and believed them to be incapable of any offence, except, perhaps, foolish speech. He hoped from this proof of the injustice of imprisoning persons without trial by jury would not be afforded by the introduction of the system in the present Act.
§ DR. COMMINS
said, it had been the object of the Government from the first, surreptitiously, to do away with trial by jury in Ireland, though no Member of the Cabinet had the candour to avow the 681 fact but the Home Secretary, who now admitted that such was the object of the clause, and that his opposition to the Amendment was caused by its tending to restore the right of trial by jury which it was the policy of the right hon. Gentleman to do away with. The utility of trial by jury was once shown in an epigram, by an authority which the Committee would listen to with respect. "Trial by jury," said Bentham, "was worthless as a régime, but invaluable as a remedy." As a régime, undoubtedly, it was worthless; and if passion and private interest did not enter into the case, then a single Judge would be better than a jury. Trial by jury was an invaluable protection against despotic government; it was the only protection the people of Ireland had; and now it was the openly avowed intention of the Government to take that away. On what ground? The Home Secretary had given as the strongest reason against the Amendment the argument that Fenianism was as rampant now as it was in 1870; but he would refer to what was, probably, the most conclusive authority in the House on that point. When Parliament was opened in 1870, the Queen's Speech, though not mentioning Fenianism by name, had alluded to the collapse of Fenianism in the phrase—" the loyalty and affection of my Irish subjects." That showed complete reliance on the affection of the Irish people in 1870; yet the Home Secretary now said Fenianism was at its height in 1870. Which authority was to be believed? He believed the Queen's Speech, together with other evidence as to what occurred in 1870. The Home Secretary had compared Fenianism in 1870 to a volcano; but they in that House had heard of certain hon. Members being alluded to as "extinct volcanoes;" and he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that there were some volcanoes called mud volcanoes, which bespattered and covered the country with their explosive sputterings. With regard to juries, he had known juries in England give verdicts which were contrary to the decision arrived at by the Judge and by every other person in Court; and the difference between England and Ireland in this respect was not such as to require so stringent an Act as that now proposed. Then, with regard to Fenianism, the Home Secretary had said that the pre- 682 sent agitation had the same object as that. He (Dr. Commins) could not say what were the objects, or purposes, or means of Fenianism; but he did know something of the present agitation in Ireland, and he knew that it had a Constitutional, a loyal, and a proper object—the amelioration of the state of the law. If that was the object of the Fenians, they were not such bad fellows after all. He hoped the Committee would not take away the last remnant of protection in Ireland—trial by jury—upon such arguments as the Home Secretary had advanced.
§ MR. T. C. THOMPSON
thought that, before the Committee rejected the Amendment, they should have as accurate information as possible. He understood the Home Secretary to say that trial by jury had failed in Ireland; and he wished to know upon what information that had been laid before the House that charge was founded. He had examined the Charges delivered by the Judges in Ireland last year; and he found from the Charges in August last that trial by jury had not failed, for the number of persons convicted was equal to the usual proportion. The number of acquittals in England was about one in four; and in Ireland, from causes which he believed it was easy to understand, the proportion was something between one-half and one-third. If there was anything upon which Englishmen should always depend, it was trial by jury. The case of those who were acting against the Government was that the cases brought before juries in Ireland had not failed; but the cases which the police had said they could bring forward had failed. They had not brought those cases to investigation; and he held that in cases which had been investigated the juries had done their duty, and convicted people when necessary. Could the Government give the Committee any information which they had not yet had in support of the charge against Irish juries?
§ MR. DAWSON
said, he bad shown from the Blue Books that in an overwhelming number of cases of agrarian crimes verdicts had been returned. In many cases which were put down as murder they had been altered to manslaughter, and in five out of eight there were convictions and sentences. In the same way, with intangible offences such 683 as firing at person, where there was real crime, he was prepared to prove that verdicts were given; and he contended that in every agrarian crime of a tangible and proveable character trials had taken place and convictions been made. There was, therefore, no ground whatever for saying that Irish juries had failed when there was any evidence before them. If there was one thing remarkable in Ireland, it was that, amidst terrible temptations, Juries had been most courageous in giving verdicts when there was anything like a case before them. That was a state of things that could not be equalled in England; and he warned the Committee, in the name of the law and in the name of British liberty, against taking away trial by jury, and outraging every feeling most precious and most dear to the Irish people.
§ MR. FINIGAN
said, the Home Secretary had startled the Irish Members with some statements of fact which he had educed from his imagination, and with some witticisms which he had borrowed from his memory. The Home Secretary's statement that the object of the Government was to suspend trial by jury in Ireland was unworthy of the Committee and doubly unworthy of a Government which proclaimed its liberality. He was inclined to think that Liberalism out of Office was a loudmouthed apology for principle; but when in Office it proved to be, so far as Ireland was concerned, tyranny, misrepresentation, and fraud, for experience showed that what Ministers said there they did not carry out in Ireland. The House was told that under the previous Act village ruffians and mauvais sujets were to be arrested. Evidence was now at hand proving that it was not the mauvais sujets, or the village ruffians, who were to be arrested, but the good men and true, who had been true to Constitutional principles and to the Liberal system of agitation. Buckshot and good intentions had marked the progress of the last Bill; buckshot had followed, and good intentions had been forgotten, and good intentions would be forgotten if the Irish Members did not stand up and fight to the last for that last remnant of liberty in Ireland, the right of a man to be tried by his peers. The Government asked not only for arbitrary powers, but for powers which they would denounce if 684 they were asked for in Hungary, or in Germany, or in any civilized State in Europe. But when it was a Liberal Ministry in England, that Ministry could do whatever it liked—not by its arguments, not by its justice, not by its law, but by its overwhelming and tyrannous majority in the House. The Liberal Government had not the courage to follow in the truly Liberal footsteps of the old Conservative Ministry. The Conservative Ministry had that spirit of justice and English manliness of which Englishmen boasted, and which true Englishmen alone carried out. They told the Irish that they would put them down, but would give them trial, and that if their officers in Ireland acted tyrannously and against the spirit of the law, they would provide the means of inquiring into the matter fairly and fully. But it was reserved for a so-called Liberal Government—a Whig institution—to impose on Ireland this measure of coercion and tyranny. They were going to abolish trial by jury for deeds committed under this new Act. Why? Not a single reason had been adduced; not a single argument had been alleged. He did not believe they were able to adduce any arguments. He believed there were Members of the Government who would not support them with their voices, although they would be base enough to support them with their votes. The Government were setting up in Ireland officials who would state anything to carry their cause, because they were the State-paid persecutors of Ireland. He did not trust either the arguments or the policy of the Government; and if this Amendment was not passed they who were going over to Ireland shortly would be able to tell the people that it was not the slightest use trusting the British Parliament, or hoping for justice so long as the present Whig Ministry retained Office. They would devote themselves to relieving the Government of their easy position, to enable them once more to proclaim their glorious principles of liberty and freedom—political rubbish so characteristic of many right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. He protested against the policy of buckshot, good intentions, and bad practices; he protested against the spirit which animated the Government in opposing this fair and just Amendment; and he hoped the present Government would last for the 685 whole five years of the Bill, in order to give Ireland, if Ireland wanted it, a last proof of the base character of measures introduced by self-styled Liberal, but well-known Whig Governments and Whig followers.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
said, he was sure it would be interesting to the Committee to know what were the intentions of the hon. Member and his Friends as soon as the House should rise at Easter; and he hoped that during that time the hon. Member would take an opportunity to make himself acquainted with Ireland—a country of which he appeared to have but an imperfect knowledge at present. The jurisdiction proposed by this Bill was summary jurisdiction only; and there was no case in Ireland in which a matter which was the subject of summary jurisdiction was also subject, at the option of the person charged, to trial by jury, except a person charged with an offence under the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, which was common to both countries. Of course, hon. Members who had urged this Amendment were aware of that, and they asked—" Why not establish in Ireland the principle adopted in England, by which a person charged may elect to have himself tried by jury?" That was another illustration of the principle that it was well to investigate facts before they founded arguments upon them. It had been said that the English Summary Jurisdiction Act enabled a person to elect to be tried by a jury. [Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: That has not been said once.]—The maximum penalty in this case was three months' imprisonment, or a fine of £20; and the English Summary Jurisdiction Act, which had been referred to—[Mr. T. P. O'CONNOR: It has not been referred to once.] He had understood the hon. Member to say—" Why not give to Ireland what you have given to England?" What, therefore, was the use of saying the Summary Jurisdiction Act had not been referred to? Now, he prayed the attention of the Committee to this. The maximum penalty under the Bill was three months' imprisonment, or £20 fine. The imprisonment might be three months, it might be a day, or, under the clause to be brought in, it might be nothing at all; and the fine might be £20, or not one farthing. In England, it was said, an offender who 686 might otherwise be convicted summarily could elect to be tried by a jury; and it was with refusing to grant an equal right to Ireland that the Government were now charged. But a person charged in England with the commission of an offence which might be disposed of summarily must have laid himself open to imprisonment for a term exceeding three months before he could elect, under the 42 & 43 Viet. c. 49 s. 17, to be tried by a jury. What, therefore, was there exceptional in the proposed legislation? Under the Bill, where an offence had been committed, and established to the satisfaction of the Court, there must be a conviction, even though the punishment might only be of a trifling character; but the Home Secretary had told the Committee that on Report a clause would be brought up to provide that though a statutable offence had been committed, yet, if the Court should be of opinion that it was what might be called a venial one, they need not proceed to a formal conviction, but might dismiss the offender, as if he were innocent. This would be an exception to the Law of Great Britain; and Irish Members must not tell him that "they had not in Ireland what we had in England," because this legislation was in favour of liberty in Ireland.
§ MR. LEAMY
said, the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) had made no reference to the Summary Jurisdiction Act; but what he had mentioned was the Act of 1875, an exceptional Act, passed by a Conservative Government; and he had suggested that the option allowed to a man under that Act to be dealt with summarily or tried by a jury should be given in the present measure. He would point out that this legislation they now proposed did not, and would not, apply to England. They were creating an offence for Ireland which did not exist in England; therefore, when they passed this exceptional legislation, the least they could do would be to give exceptional protection to the people to be subjected to it. But Ministers got up and said—" You say we want to abolish trial by jury." No hon. Member had said anything of the kind until the Home Secretary had made the remark. When he had first seen the Amendment on the Paper he had said he should be inclined to allow it to pass by in order that they might come to the 687 important question of the duration of the Act; but what had the Home Secretary said? Why, that Irish juries were not to be trusted; and he did not think there could be a more conclusive proof that it was the deliberate intention of the framers of the Bill to take away the right of trial by jury than this statement and the refusal of the Government to allow a person accused of an offence under the Bill to be tried by his countrymen. What were the two Coercion Acts they had got from this ultra-Liberal Government? One was a measure enabling the Lord Lieutenant to imprison people for 18 months without any trial at all, and the other, a Supplementary Act to the first, was a measure abolishing trial by jury. The Solicitor General for Ireland had wound up by saying that because this was exceptional legislation for Ireland the magistrates, where they found it expedient, even when satisfied that a case had been made out, might not proceed to a conviction. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary had called it "exceptional legislation." Yes; "exceptional legislation" coming from a Liberal Government. Was the right hon. and learned Gentleman not aware that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway (Major Nolan) had copied his Amendment, word for word, from the Act of 1875? The Irish Members had no occasion to offer any thanks to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He would not compete with him in knowledge as to the summary jurisdiction in Ireland; but he was very strongly of opinion that under existing Acts similar powers as those about to be conferred were already possessed by the magistracy; therefore the favours they were getting from the Government were not so great as some hon. Members might be disposed to think.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the Solicitor General for Ireland, in the few minutes remaining, might yet make a great concession, but he shook his head; therefore it was to be feared nothing could be expected. The Solicitor General had pointed out that in England there was an appeal from the magistrates—
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
There is no appeal to a jury.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he wished to point out that the magistrates in Ireland were not like the magistrates of England. There was, and he suspected very rightly, the greatest distrust of the magistrates on the part of a great many Irishmen—not distrust of the stipendiary but of the ordinary magistrates. That being so, it seemed to him very reasonable that if a man said—"I will risk going to prison for a year, if the jury say I am guilty," he should have the chance of taking the risk.
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. W. M. JOHNSON)
There is no risk of that kind. There is no imprisonment for a year contemplated.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, that was precisely what he complained of. When the Government had been pushed hard in these matters they had always appealed to former Disarmament Acts; but when the Irish Members did the same thing, and said—"this right of appeal should be given, because it was granted in a former Act," the Government answered—" Not at all—the power is not given in the English Summary Jurisdiction Acts." The only real argument he had heard against the request of the Irish Members was that probably the juries would not convict; but he would point out that when the Coercion Act was before the House they were told that when it became law the juries would no longer be terrorized, and that they would be enabled to give verdicts honestly. They had passed that Act, and now they could no longer say that the juries would not convict, however good the evidence laid before them of an offence being committed. Under the circumstances, he should vote for the Irish Members, and he was sorry the Government would not give in.
§ MR. BIGGAR
considered the contention of the Government extremely weak. All the proceedings under the measure were likely to take place on the evidence of police constables. It could not be pretended that Irish juries had abused their position when there had been real bonâ fide evidence against a man brought before them. If a policeman swore that he had found arms upon a person, it could not be supposed that any jury would refuse to find a verdict of guilty; 689 but they knew from long experience—and this had really given rise to the controversy about the juries—that the old custom of the Crown was to invariably pack the juries, and thus make conviction certain. What the Crown lawyers were hankering after was a return to the old system which was exploded by the Act of Lord O'Hagan. Lord O'Hagan had had considerable practice at the Bar, had a sense of justice, and saw the thorough iniquity of the old practice, and he was fortunately able to convince the Government of the day, who had not made such professions of liberality as the present Government, that it was necessary to reform the jury laws. The result had been that juries now decided according to evidence and Constitutional principle, and it was because of this—because the juries would not convict unless the evidence was sufficient—that the Government wished to abolish the new and revert to the old system. Looking at the proportion of convictions to prosecutions in Ireland, it was unfair to bring these charges against the Irish juries.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, when this Bill was introduced with a great flourish of trumpets, they were told that the Government intended to be more merciful than their Predecessors, and to inflict only three months' imprisonment instead of the larger punishment of 12 months provided by the Act of 1875. They now saw that the real reason of the Government was not humanitarian—that it was not a desire to render the punishment less; but a desire to do away with historic trial by jury in Ireland in regard to political offences. They had cast about to see how they could best do this, and they had discovered that the most satisfactory method would be to give the magistrates exclusive jurisdiction over these offences. He regretted that the Government in this, as in many other matters since the commencement of this Session, had made themselves the obedient tools of the Irish landlord class. What were the Irish magistrates? In almost every case they were landlords, the class to whose assistance the Government had come in this struggle. On the one side was the Irish people, and on the other Her Majesty's most Liberal Government and the Irish landlords. He would undertake to say that strong as the Government was, Liberal as it was, powerful as was its position when it as- 690 sumed power last year, it would be impossible for it to survive the contamination and degradation which would be the consequence of this most unholy alliance. If they had maintained their position of neutrality things would have gone on well. There would, probably, have been some chance of settling the Irish Land Question; but they had now lent themselves to the maintenance, to the upholding of the most infamous territorial system which had ever disgraced a civilized country. This country was responsible for the landlord system in Ireland——
I must call the hon. Member's attention to the fact that the Question is whether there is to be an appeal to a jury.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that was so, and he proposed to show that the Government, in preventing an appeal to a jury, and in providing that the landlord class should have absolute power of inflicting three months' imprisonment on any person who might be accused of this newfangled crime of being possessed of arms had pledged itself to the landlord conspiracy in Ireland against the well-being of the Irish people. His argument was that if they had desired to terminate the unjust state of things which had obtained in Ireland ever since England first acquired dominion there, they would not have given to the landlords power of adjudicating in these cases. Why did not the English Government bring in a Bill to abolish trial by jury altogether? Why could they not be honest for once in their lives, and admit that Ireland was unfit for their Constitutional system of government? Why, if they thought so, did they not frankly admit it in black and white? All their acts tended to show that they thought so. For his own part, he thought that Mr. Froude was right when he said—" You must either govern Ireland as a Crown Colony, or give her complete independence." They would find, before many more years had gone by, that they themselves must yield to the opinion of Mr. Froude, and would have to confess that they must either give Ireland independence, or deprive her of sham Constitutional forms which they boasted from time to time of having given her; but which they never scrupled to take away—not in a direct fashion, but in a one-sided and disgraceful fashion, and treat her as a Crown Colony 691 —come openly to Parliament and say—"We have permitted Ireland to come within our Constitution; it is a dangerous experiment that was made 80 years ago; we find that the Irish people, either from ignorance, or from some other cause, are not fitted to remain in our Constitutional system, and nothing now remains for us but to govern them as one of our Crown Colonies." If they would do that, and introduce a Bill for the purpose, he would promise them his most hearty support. The five years' experience he had had of coming over to Westminster had convinced him of the utter hopelessness of expecting any justice for Ireland from a British Parliament; and he would entreat them, once for all, to give up the sham of Constitutional government, and to show the naked sword, to show their true principles—to carry out that which it was evident, from every Act of this kind they introduced, they felt—and at last, for the first time in the history of their connection with Ireland, show some little honesty.
§ It being Three of the clock,
said: In accordance with the Resolution of the House, I have now to put the Amendments without discussion.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 273: Majority 238. (Div. List, No. 129.)
The next Amendment is in the name of the hon. Member for Sligo County (Mr. Sexton); but as it is substantially the same as that the Committee has just negatived it cannot be put. The next Amendment is in the name of the hon. Member for Wicklow County (Mr. Corbet). The hon. Member proposes to exempt from the operation of the Bill all persons having licences under the Game Certificates and Gun Licences Acts. But Clause 2 has already given power to the Lord Lieutenant to name the persons who alone shall have the power in proclaimed districts to authorize persons to carry arms and ammunition. The Commissioners of Inland Revenue, who are empowered by the cited Acts to issue licences, are nowhere referred to in this Bill, and have no authority under it to enable persons to purchase themselves out of the operation of the Bill. The Amendment, being in- 692 consistent with the powers already given to the Lord Lieutenant, cannot be put.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That Clause 5, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 271; Noes 35: Majority 236.—(Div. List, No. 130.)
§ Clause 6 (Definitions).
The hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan) proposes an Amendment to limit the power of the Lord Lieutenant, as regards a proclaimed district, to certain areas, which he defines in the Amendment. This is inconsistent with Clause 2, which determines that a proclaimed district shall be "any specified part" of Ireland which the Lord Lieutenant may by proclamation declare to be brought under the operation of the Bill. The Amendment, therefore, cannot be put.
In page 3, line 13, to leave out the words "also any sword, cutlass, pike, and bayonet, also any part of any arms as so defined."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 278; Noes 30: Majority 248.—(Div. List, No. 131.)
The next Amendment is in the name of the hon. Member for Queen's County (Mr. Lalor)—page 3, line 14, after "bayonet," leave out "also any part of any arms as so defined"—but these words have been substantially dealt with by the Committee.
In page 3, line 14, after the word "defined," to insert the words "unless it can be shown that such sort of weapons are unserviceable and useless."—(Mr. Healy.)
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 34; Noes 260: Majority 226.—(Div. List, No. 132.)
In page 3, line 15, to leave out all the words from the word "gunpowder," to the end of the Clause.—(Mr Healy.)
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."693
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 261; Noes 30: Majority 231.—(Div. List, No. 133.)
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That Clause 6 stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 254; Noes 37: Majority 217.—(Div. List, No. 134.)
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That Clause 7 stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 252; Noes 32: Majority 220.—(Div. List, No. 135.)
§ Clause 8 (Continuance of Act).
In page 3, line 20, to leave out all the words after the word "the," and insert the words "thirtieth day of September, one thousand eight hundred and eighty-two."—(Mr. Serjeant Simon.)
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 222; Noes 58: Majority 164.—(Div. List, No. 136.)
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That Clause 8 stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 244; Noes 41: Majority 203.—(Div. List, No. 137.)
The first new clause offered is offered by the hon. and learned Member for Meath (Mr. A. M. Sullivan). The hon. and learned Member proposes by this clause to make it the duty of the police to shoot magpies, crows, hawks, or rabbits, &c., if they are injurious on farms when a tenant has been refused a licence to carry arms. I was inclined to view this proposal, when it was in the form of an Amendment, as a pleasantry, but as the hon. and learned Member assures me that he offers it in all seriousness, I rule that it is beyond the scope of the Bill to impose on the constabulary of Ireland certain duties connected with agriculture, and which might interfere with the performance of their other duties, as determined by existing statutes. The next clause offered is in the name of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan). This is substantially the same as what was ruled out of Order when proposed as an Amendment by the hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Major Nolan).
§ New Clause (Register of licences to be kept and filed,)—(Mr. Callan,)—brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Clause be read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 35; Noes 256: Majority 221.—(Div. List, No. 138.)
The next clause proposed is also in the name of the hon. Member for Louth. It proposes that prisoners under this Act shall be treated as first-class misdemeanants; but that has been already negatived as an Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon). The same remark applies to a further clause proposed by the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), with regard to the treatment of prisoners. The last clause offered is in the name of the hon. Member for Bolton (Mr. Thomasson). The hon. Member proposes to prevent any ejectments from agricultural holdings rated at an annual value of less than £30, before the 1st of September next. The Bill under consideration is one solely limited to the particular offences named in it, and has nothing to do with civil processes which may result upon civil contracts. The Amendment, being beyond the scope of the Bill, cannot be put.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do Report the Bill, as amended, to the House."
§ MR. PARNELL
wished to know whether he was at liberty to address the Chair on the Motion before the Committee?
§ MR. CALLAN
rose to Order, and said, the new Rule which governed the proceedings stated that on a Motion being made after Notice, by a Minister of the Crown, that in Committee upon any Bill declared urgent, or upon the consideration of any such Bill, the remaining clauses of the Bill, and any new Amendments or new Clauses then standing on the Paper, should be put forthwith; but there was nothing in that Rule referring to the matter then before the Committee. He, therefore, as a matter of right, should ask that hon. Members should 695 be at liberty to discuss this matter, no Rule affecting the privileges of Members having been laid on the Table by the Speaker; and he held that the hon. Member for the City of Cork was perfectly in Order.
The hon. Member will have an opportunity of asking the Speaker from the Chair what is the intention of the Rule. As I understand the spirit of the Rule, it is that I shall put the Question forthwith.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 267; Noes 31: Majority 236.—(Div. List, No. 139.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. CALLAN
rose to Order, to move that the Chairman should report Progress, in order that Mr. Speaker in the Chair might give his decision as to the interpretation to be placed on the Rule that on a Motion being made, after Notice by a Minister of the Crown, that in Committee any Bill declared urgent, the remaining clauses of the Bill, and any Amendments and new Clauses then standing on the Paper, should be put forthwith—whether that embraced also the Motion upon which the Committee had just divided.
The hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of consulting the Speaker when he is in the Chair. By the Orders of the House, all Motions are barred except those on the Notice Paper and the two formal Motions at the end. The Question is, that I do leave the Chair.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 277; Noes 22: Majority 255.—(Div. List, No. 140.)
§ MR. SPEAKER
then took the Chair, and called upon the Minister in charge of the Bill to name a day for Consideration.
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he desired to inform the Speaker that on the Question that the Bill be reported, he wished to 696 discuss the Question, and he rose to a point of Order with regard to the Rule placed by the Speaker on the Table of the House on the 18th of February, regulating the proceedings in Committee. The question he wished to submit was, all the Notices then on the Paper having been put forthwith, whether the Rule applied to the two last Motions which the Chairman had put, under protest from the Irish Members, without permitting any discussion. He desired the Speaker's decision as to whether the Rule referred to matters which did not appear on the Notice Paper.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Before the Report is made from the Committee to the House by the Chairman, two formal Motions are put from the Chair. These two Motions usually have been put without division; and the question put to me now is whether, according to the Rule to which reference has been made, it is open to the Chairman to put these two Motions to the House forthwith without any debate. I have no hesitation in saying that the Chairman has correctly interpreted the Rule. The spirit and intention of the Rule no doubt were, that after a certain hour there should be no further debate.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The matter is now at an end. The Consideration of this Bill has been fixed for to-morrow, and there can be no further discussion upon it.
§ Bill reported; as amended, to be considered To-morrow, and to be printed. [Bill 105.]