HC Deb 23 November 1882 vol 274 cc1912-4

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether a case was recently heard at the Murroe Petty Sessions, county Limerick, before the Resident Magistrate of the district, and three other local magistrates, where two caretakers of the Property Defence Association, named Parker and Eakins, were charged with entering houses at night and demanding arms and money; whether the charge against them was dismissed by the Bench; if it is true, as reported in the daily Dublin papers of 17th and 18th instant, that, notwithstanding such hearing and dismissal, the Lord Lieutenant sent down two other Resident Magistrates to rehear the case; If it is also true that these Resident Magistrates objected to the local magistrates taking part in the proceedings, and that the latter retired, protesting against the proceedings; whether these Resident Magistrates then committed the two men for trial without hearing the evidence for the defence; and, if he will state to the House under what statute the Lord Lieutenant has power to send Resident Magistrates to review and set aside the rulings of properly constituted Petty Sessions Courts?


As this Question relates to a matter of law upon which the Government consulted the Attorney General as their Legal Officer, I must beg to refer the hon. Member to him. As far as policy is concerned, I cordially agree with what has been done, and it was done on the urgent representation of Mr. Clifford Lloyd.


Sir, I am responsible for this, and the facts are these—Application was made at Murroe Petty Sessions that informations should be received against two men named Parker and Eakins, and that they should be returned for trial on a charge of entering houses armed at night and taking arms and money. These men are, I understand, in the employment of an Association called the Property Defence Association. The Bench, consisting of one Resident Magistrate and three local magistrates, by a majority, refused the application. This was without prejudice to a further application if the Crown was so advised. The matter being then brought under my attention, it was my duty, as Public Prosecutor in Ireland, to see that justice did not miscarry. Of course, the House will understand that I offer no opinion whatever either as to the guilt or innocence of these men; but I was, and am, of opinion that if the deponents were credible persons, a case was made out proper to be submitted for investigation by a jury, and, that being so, my duty was plain. I directed a fresh application to be made, and that was done. The Government directed two Resident Magistrates to attend; the same local magistrates also attended. The Resident Magistrates stated that if a case was established, proper in their opinion to go before a jury, they would, on their own responsibility, return the persons charged for trial. The local magistrates stated they did not contemplate taking part in the proceedings. The hearing proceeded; all evidence adduced was heard; and the solicitor for the accused reserved his defence. The men were returned for trial, and I have directed a prosecution at the Munster Winter Assize before a special jury. In reply to the last paragraph of this Question, the Lord Lieutenant did not send Resident Magistrates to review and set aside the rulings of properly constituted Petty Sessions Courts, and there is no Statute for that purpose.


assumed, as there was some confusion on the subject, that the Resident Magistrates who re-heard the case sat under the Petty Sessions Act.


I take it for granted that they were sitting under their ordinary jurisdiction, and under the Petty Sessions Act. I may be permitted to say that I used the words Property Defence Association, because the hon. Member used them in his Question. It is quite immaterial whether these men were employed by this Association or not; the sole question was, was there a case for a jury?