§ MR. SEXTON
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether the Matthew Harris, T. C. of Ballinasloe, on the occasion of the recent search and seizure of his papers by the police, requested Sub-Inspector Joyce to allow him to see any documents that the police might determine to take away so that he might first index them, with a view to future identification; and, 1829 whether the Sub-Inspector, after agreeing to the request of Mr. Harris, took the papers away against his will without allowing him to index them as a measure of precaution; why the Sub-Inspector refused to permit Mr. Harris to take the only measure by which he might protect himself against the introduction of other documents from his papers after they had been taken from his house; whether, under the 14th section of the Crime Prevention Act, declaring all articles seized to be forfeited to Her Majesty, the act of seizure does not involve the consequence of forfeiture, and whether, therefore, the police are not bound, in the case of papers and documents, to abstain from seizure and removal until they have ascertained that the papers and documents are of such a character as to call for forfeiture to Her Majesty;? what has been done, or is to be done, with Mr. Harris's papers; and, whether any assurance can be given that the course pursued by Sub-Inspector Joyce in the case of Mr. Harris—namely, the removal of documents in bulk before examination, will not be again adopted? He would also ask the right hon. Gentleman's attention to the following statement by Mr. Harris:—I called on the police to let me see the alleged document—the document referred to by the Chief Secretary as hearing on a murder case—hut it was refused. The county inspector was not made acquainted by Sub-Inspector Joyce of the seizure, and as to a document connected with murder there is not a shadow of truth in the Chief Secretary's assertion.He would now ask the right hon. Gentleman how it was that the Sub-Inspector conducted these proceedings without the knowledge of the County Inspector, his superior officer, who was living in the same town; and, also, if he has now any further information with respect to the one document to which, on Friday last, he attached a criminal character?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
Sir, I will first answer the Question of which the hon. Member has given Notice. I am informed that after the search had commenced, and when only a few documents had been found, Mr. Harris asked to be allowed to take a note of such as it was intended to remove. To this the Sub-Inspector agreed; but found afterwards that the mass of documents was so great 1830 as to render it impossible to carry out the arrangement, and Mr. Harris then made no objection, either as regards the removal or as to not being able to take a note of the papers. All papers were not removed. An examination and selection, so far as was possible under the circumstances, was made. As to the legal points raised in the third paragraph of the Question, I am advised that, if there be a seizure in the sense meant by the Act, there is also a forfeiture; but that a mere removal to a convenient place for the purpose of examination is not necessarily a "seizure" within the section; and, in this instance, the removal was only for examination with the view of determining whether any seizure should be made. If Mr. Harris considers that the Sub-Inspector exceeded his duty he has his remedy. As I have already stated, such papers as are not forfeited will be returned to Mr. Harris. With regard to the hon. Gentleman's further Question, it contains a good many queries, and I will require Notice to answer them. I may say that no difference can be made between the case of Mr. Matthew Harris and anyone else, and as his papers were seized in connection with so grave a matter as murder, the law cannot recognize any sort of distinction of person; and I am not aware whether Mr. Matthew Harris's case should be taken separately from the great number of persons who had their houses searched, and their documents examined in reference to cases of crime and murder.
§ MR. SEXTON
Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is unable to give an answer as to how it was that the search in this case was made without the knowledge of the chief officer of the police resident in the same town?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
, in reply, said, that as to the question of fact relating to the action of the police, it was perfectly obvious that he should first ask the police as to the state of the case before he answered the question.
§ MR. O'KELLY
I called the attention of the House the other day to the removal of these papers; and I asked the right hon. Gentleman what guarantee there was for a man, after the police 1831 have carried away his papers, without having any record of them, that other papers—["Order, order!"]—would not be placed amongst them that were not removed. Such things are not new in Ireland.
§ MR. O'DONNELL
It is not asked that any difference should be made between Mr. Harris and anyone else; but are we to understand that in the case of anyone whose premises maybe searched, papers can be removed by the police without any opportunity being given to the person whose premises are searched to make any record of the papers which are taken from his possession?
§ MR. TREVELYAN
That was not done in this case, for these papers were taken away by the police with Mr. Harris's consent. It was thought that this would be for his convenience, as otherwise the police would have been a long time in his house searching the premises.