§ MR. TOTTENHAM
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether, at the assizes for the county of Limerick on the 14th instant, in the trial of a case before Mr. Justice Barry for taking forcible possession, the jury disagreed, and whether the following is a correct report of what then occurred:—His Lordship—You say that there is no chance of agreement, although the prisoner ad- 1502 mitted that he had been put forcibly in possesssion, and that he has retained possession up to this moment. Is that so?—Foreman—Yes, my Lord. His Lordship—Well, I can only say it is another of the discreditable scenes that we have witnessed during this assizes. It is now plain that what has been stated all over Ireland is perfectly true—that trial by jury has become a farce and a mockery in the county of Limerick, and I, as a Limerick man, say with pain, with regret, and with humiliation that the parties who come into the jury-box in Limerick are either perfectly incapable of understanding evidence, or determined, while understanding it, to violate their oaths and not act upon them. It must he for those who have the guidance of the legislation of the Country to consider this state of things;and, whether, if correct, and in view of the repeated similar opinions expressed by other judges, Her Majesty's Government propose to introduce any measures to amend a system which fails to vindicate the supremacy of the Law?
§ LORD ELCHO
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether his attention has been drawn to the following paragraph in the "Times" newspaper of the 18th instant:—At Tralee Assizes yesterday, in a prosecution for remaining in forcible possession of a farm, all the prisoners were acquitted. Mr. Justice Fitzgerald thereupon said to the jury,—'This is your unanimous verdict, delivered by your foreman. All I can say is that it is a verdict against the evidence and against your oaths, and if that sort of verdict continues to be given it will sweep away the present jury system;'and, whether he will take steps to bring about a better administration of the Law?
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
In answer to the hon. Member for Leitrim and the noble Lord, I have to say that I have not received copies of the Judges' Charges; but I have no reason to doubt that the learned Judges made the statements referred to. I think it a very serious fact that it should have been necessary for them to make such statements. The hon. Gentleman asks me whether the Government intend to take any steps in consequence of these statements, by which I suppose they mean when we intend to bring in a Bill affecting trial by jury in Ireland. In reply to those Questions I have to say that the Government was influenced by the existence of the state of things spoken of by the learned Judges when they prepared the Protection Bill and the Arms Bill, and the House, no doubt, was also in- 1503 fluenced by them in passing those Bills; but though the matter demands the most serious consideration, the Government has not come to any conclusion that would warrant any statement that they would bring forward any further measure on the subject this Session.
§ LORD ARTHUR HILL
asked Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, Whether he has read the report of the proceedings at the recent Limerick Assizes, and the observations of Judge Barry, as recorded in the "Limerick Chronicle" of the 15th instant, namely:—The jury in Denis Murphy's case came into court and said that they could not agree. His Lordship—Well, I can only say it is another of the discreditable scenes that we have witnessed during those assizes. It is now plain that what has been stated all over Ireland is perfectly true, that trial by jury has become a farce and a mockery in the county Limerick; and I, as a Limerick man, say with pain, with regret, and with humiliation, that the parties who came into the jury box in Limerick are either perfectly incapable of understanding evidence, or determined, while understanding it, to violate their oaths and not to act upon them. It must be for those who have the guidance of the legislation of the Country to consider this state of things. The jury was now discharged. The jury in James Walsh's case having agreed to a verdict of not guilty, His Lordship said, 'Gentlemen, I regret very much that you were not here in Court at the time I was addressing some observations to the jury in the last case on the manner in which the juries of the county Limerick discharge their duties. You have put the climax on the discreditable conduct of the jurors. You are now discharged, and you can consider how you can reconcile your verdict with your oaths and your consciences;'and, whether, in the face of the repeated declarations of Irish Judges as to the impossibility in many cases of finding juries who are "willing to reconcile their verdicts with their oaths," he is prepared, by legislation, to remedy such a state of things?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
I can only refer the noble Lord to the answer just given by the Chief Secretary.
§ MR. GIBSON
asked the Attorney General for Ireland, Whether it was not the fact that on Saturday last the Judge, on the application of the Crown Counsel, was obliged to postpone the trial of the remaining prisoners at Tralee on the ground of the state of the jury panel?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAW)
I am not aware that all the cases were postponed; but I am aware that one case of a serious 1504 nature was postponed for the reason stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman.