HC Deb 08 August 1887 vol 318 cc1537-8
MR. HAYDEN (Leitrim, S.)

asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether it is true that five soldiers were convicted at the Roscommon Summer Assizes for complicity in the recent military riots in Athlone; whether these riots were of a very serious character, the Government having found it necessary to give considerable sums as compensation for the damage done during their continuance; whether two police constables swore positively to the identity of the prisoners; whether the only defence made was an attempt to prove an alili; whether the jury disbelieved the alibi, and convicted the prisoners; whether the prisoners were then sentenced to six months' imprisonment; whether they were discharged after having put up only a few weeks of their sentence; and, whether any further evidence has been laid before the authorities, to make them disbelieve the evidence of the police, disagree with the verdict of the jury, and order the discharge of the prisoners?

THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER SECRETARY (Colonel KING-HARMAN)(who replied) said (Kent, Isle of Thanet)

Five soldiers were convicted at the last Roscommon Assizes for a grievous assault upon one John Coffey. As regards the evidence, one constable gave evidence against each of three of the prisoners, and two constables against the other two prisoners. The Chief Baron, who tried the case, considered that this evidence, although perfectly honest, was weak. Twenty-live military witnesses, including an officer of the regiment to which the prisoners belonged, were examined for the defence. The jury convicted the prisoners. The Chief Baron was dissatisfied with this verdict, and so expressed himself in passing sentence. He sentenced the prisoners to six months imprisonment with hard labour, being the sentence he would have passed had he approved the verdict of the jury. He, however, directed the prisoners to be treated as untried prisoners for 14 days, pending the result of their Memorial to the Lord Lieutenant. A Memorial was duly submitted to His Excellency, who, upon a full consideration of all the circumstances of the case elicited at the trial, and the Judge's dissent from the verdict, ordered the immediate discharge of the prisoners. The jury appear to have found the prisoners guilty because they were soldiers. In a cross case tried the next day against a civilian for inflicting a dangerous wound upon a soldier, although the evidence of identification was very strong, the jury acquitted the prisoner.

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman toll us how the Irish Government ascertained that six months would have been the punishment inflicted by the Chief Baron had he been satisfied with the verdict?


I saw it in the Memorial signed by the Chief Baron.