HC Deb 09 May 1881 vol 261 cc11-2

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, If his attention has been called to the proceedings in the Exchequer Division of the High Court of Justice in Ireland on the 25th April, in the case of Egan v. Traill, the defendant being a resident magistrate of Parsonstown, and the action one of three brought against him for having illegally sentenced to imprisonment and hard labour persons who had been arrested by the police on a charge of assault, Mr. Traill having gone on a Sunday to the police barrack where the men were in custody, and although they offered bail and asked to be remanded to petty sessions, refused to postpone the cases, and imposed on the men sentences of imprisonment varying from eight days to one month. The men were in gaol for the whole of these respective periods, and the affidavit stated that they had to sleep upon plank beds; whether Baron Fitzgerald stated when refusing Mr. Traill's application, that he "had sentenced three several men to imprisonment illegally;" whether when excusing Mr. Traill's conduct his counsel stated that he, being only a major in the Army, "could not be expected to know the law accurately as he was not a lawyer;" whether the Government will consider Major Traill's removal from such a responsible legal position, and upon whose recommendation Major Traill was appointed, and by whom it was sanctioned; and, whether if it be true, as appears from the Return of Stipendiary Magistrates lately presented to this House, that Major Traill has been acting for the last fifteen months for another resident magistrate absent on sick leave, the Government will at once take steps to appoint a competent person in the place of the absent official?


Sir, I have instituted an inquiry into the circumstances referred to in the Question, and what I understand to be the case is this. Sixteen persons were arrested on a charge of assault in September last at the place named, and detained in the lock-up. Three of these persons were the persons alluded to in the Question. Two of them who had committed the offence were convicted by the magistrate named; but this conviction was illegal, because they were tried at the gaol by one magistrate, and not at petty sessions before more than one magistrate. I have received no official report of the proceedings referred to, nor of the language used by Mr. Justice Fitzgerald at the trial; but I have no reason to believe that it has been inaccurately given in the newspaper reports. The commitment was made by the magistrate in ignorance of the law; and Major Traill has been sufficiently penalized for the error he made by becoming the defendant in three actions. He was appointed by the late Government to do duty in the place of the resident magistrate, who had asked for leave of absence, and has since resigned in consequence of ill health. A successor to Major Traill will be sent to Parsonstown in a few days' time.