§ Clause 3 (Order for special jury).
MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.), in moving as an Amendment in page 3, to leave out in line 15 to line 18, inclusive, the words—
Whereas it is expedient to amend the law relating to the place of trial of offences committed in Ireland, for securing more fair and impartial trials, and for relieving jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business, he it enacted—
said: The passage to which I object precedes the enacting part of the clause as a preamble. The statements contained in it are false and absurd, and as this preamble does not affect the enacting part of the clause, I think it may well be omitted. The Government propose to secure the trial of persons charged with political offences by one section of the community in Ireland, and they declare in this preamble that it may be expedient to change the venue in order to secure more fair and impartial trials, and to relieve jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business. Whatever view may be taken of the necessity of securing more fair and impartial trials, the pretence that this Bill will relieve jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business is ridiculous, because in no case, with one exception, throughout the entire history of Ireland, has any juror been subjected to injury or harm in consequence of having acted as a juror. That one case is all the Government have to go upon, and no other juryman who has given a verdict in favour of the Crown, either in 1848, 1865–6–7, 1870, or in the three years of the last Crimes Act, although hundreds of jurymen have been concerned, has ever sustained injury. In the case of the solitary juryman who was attacked—Mr. Field—the men were
caught and hanged. Therefore I maintain that to ask the Committee to place on the Statute Book a formal declaration of this kind without the slightest pretence for it is asking a great deal too much. It will not add one hair's breadth to the enacting provisions of the Bill, nor can it accomplish any good object the Government can have in view. To ask the Irish Members quietly to assent to a useless and needless libel upon their countrymen is to ask them to do what it is impossible for them to do. No doubt Her Majesty's Government may force the Committee to accept this preamble, for they have their majority and can do very much as they like. Nowadays, except in the case of legislation introduced by some amateur, the old practice of prefacing a Bill with a preamble has been altogether abandoned. I believe the last instance was the case of the Hares and Rabbits Bill. Nobody nowadays thinks of inserting a preamble in a Bill, and unless the Government are proud of their own drafting, the least they ought to do is to omit this preamble. I therefore hope the Government will accept my Amendment. In Ireland, there is not one man in 20 who possesses the qualification of a common juror, and there is not one in 50—I believe the exact number is one in 64—who possesses the qualification of a special juror. I think it is quite enough to ask us to leave in the hands of this gang of landlords and land agents the power of trying the cases which will arise under the provisions of this measure, but to ask us to assent pro formâ to this libel upon our countrymen is asking a great deal too much. The Government, in this measure, are seeking to entrust the lives and liberties of the Irish people to the members of secret societies, in the hope that by that means they may practically stamp out those liberties, and it is a gross absurdity to call upon us to assent that trials by jury in Ireland are unfair and impartial, and that a necessity exists for relieving jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business. I beg to move the omission of the first four lines of the preamble.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "Whereas," in page 3, in line 15, to the words "be it enacted," both inclusive, in line 18.—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)1355
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
The Government have no objection to raise to the course which the hon. and learned Member has pursued. They can quite understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman feels it his duty to make a protest against this preamble, but there is nothing unusual in prefacing a clause by a preamble. In the present case, the preamble explains one of the chief grounds upon which the Government ask that the Bill should become law. The hon. and learned Gentleman appears to think that persons who serve in Ireland as jurymen run no risk, and the hon. and learned Gentleman says it is an historical fact that no juryman has run any danger to his life, property, and business by acting according to his oath in the jury box. The hon. and learned Member is perfectly aware that the Government have always laid it down that one of the chief grounds justifying the Bill is that a fair trial cannot be obtained at the hands of a jury in Ireland. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Yes, that is one of the grounds for the introduction of this Bill. There is, therefore, nothing new in the declaration we have put on the face of the Bill, and experience proves the absolute necessity of provisions of the character of those contained in this clause. Experience obtained under previous Crimes Acts, and experience obtained every year at the Criminal Assizes held in Ireland, has abundantly proved that if you want to have justice done by a jury in Ireland a change of venue is absolutely necessary. That being our view—a view supported by experience in Ireland extending over a good many years—I do not see how it is possible to modify this clause, nor do I see any adequate ground for withdrawing the preamble, which clearly explains the grounds upon which the Bill has been introduced.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman, I presume, by way of a pleasant interlude, dropped one important expression—namely, that he does not see any grounds for modifying the clause. Are we then to understand that in this question the opinion of the 1356 Unionist Members is to be disregarded? Are we to understand that although Lord Derby, one of the chief Unionist supporters of the Government, has declared that the exportation clause to England is an absurd provision—are we to understand that in the judgment of Her Majesty's Government, no attention ought to be paid to the views of the noble Lord and his brother Unionists? This clause declares—Whereas it is expedient to amend the law relating to the place of trial of offenses committed in Ireland, for securing more fair and impartial trials, and for relieving jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business.I wish to ask the Government whether this is the way they mean to defend the clause—namely, by simply dropping a statement from the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary that they neither intend to withdraw this preamble, or any other part of the clause. This statement certainly conflicts with the assertion which has been prominently put forward as to an understanding between the Liberal Unionists and the Government in reference to the change of venue to England. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary tolls us that the Government do not see their way to the withdrawal of the preamble or any other part of the clause. In making that statement, does the right Gentleman mean to forestall the discussion of the 2nd sub-section of the clause? Is he now announcing the determination of the Cabinet; and if so, do they intend to make it a vital matter? Of course, if they make it a vital matter, the Unionists will abstain from opposing them. So elastic are their consciences, that they will vote against any proposal which the Government assert to be a vital matter.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I certainly did not intend to convey that the Government would not accept an Amendment in any part of the clause. What I intended to say, and what I adhere to, is that we must disclaim any intention of abandoning the principle embodied in the preamble of the clause, and in the clause itself, that a change of venue under certain circumstances is absolutely necessary.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
The right hon. Gentleman says that the Government can see no adequate reason for abandoning this preamble. Let me 1357 try to give them one, and that adequate reason is that the withdrawal of the preamble would save the whole of this discussion without in any fashion changing the Bill. The preamble is no portion of the enacting part of the Bill at all. The enacting part would be equally effective without it. It contains a number of statements which are naturally disputed on this side, although they are affirmed by the Government. If the Government insists on having these statements retained in the Bill, it will be only fair that we should discuss, one by one, whether they are true or not. I maintain that the Bill would be just as effective without these four lines, and would be just as complete, good or bad. They add nothing whatever to the Bill, and are mere verbiage.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I quite agree with the argument of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad-laugh). It may appear to the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary desirable for this Committee to affirm the statements contained in the clause in regard to Irish juries; but if the Government are determined to insist upon that, then we, on this side of the House, are equally determined to discuss them. What earthly object can the Government have in adding to the general offensiveness of the measure, and placing on record, as a sort of historical proposition, a declaration of this character? I should have supposed that the Government had quite enough on their hands without insisting upon the affirmation of propositions with regard to the past history of Ireland. I should have thought they would have desired to proceed with the remaining parts of the Bill. It seems, however, that there is not enough to satisfy them without insisting upon pressing forward these offensive and obstructive propositions. I am perfectly ready to enter into the questions from the historical standpoint. It is alleged in this preamble—Whereas it is expedient to amend the law relating to the place of trial of offences committed in Ireland, for securing more fair and impartial trials, and for relieving jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business.But did the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary attempt to instance a single case where there has been danger or injury to the life, property, or business of an Irish juror when a Coercion 1358 Act was not in force? In Ireland, whenever you have found the life, property, or business of a juror in danger, it has always been when the country has been governed by exceptional laws. In no part of the history of Ireland is there the smallest evidence of intimidation having been practised towards jurors when the law administered in Ireland was the same law which was being administered in England. Therefore, it is only natural that we should feel a great and strong objection to having such a statement as this placed on record in a Bill of this kind, and that it should be accepted as proved by this Committee. I am astonished to find that Members of the Government are not more desirous of giving real information to their Friends upon this complicated and difficult Irish Question. I should have thought that they would have been anxious to give accurate information upon the question, instead of displaying their ignorance in this blind and stupid fashion. If they intend to continue in this course, I am afraid it will never be possible to bring about a termination of this eternal Irish Question. Let hon. Members look to the debates which took place in this House in the years 1838 and 1839, when Lord John Russell was the Leader of the Liberal Party, and when he was resisting the attempt then made to enforce coercion. The only four years in the history of Ireland, since the Union, during which coercion was abandoned and the jury system was administered as it is administered in England, according to the testimony of Sir Thomas Drummond, the Irish Secretary of that period, the Law Officers of the Crown, the Lord Lieutenant, Lord John Russell, and the whole Executive, were years of progressive improvement. According to the testimony of those gentlemen, from the day and hour in which the system of packing juries and unfairly administering the law ceased, crime steadily, and even rapidly, decreased. I think it was in March, 1839, that the experiment of administering the Jury Law in Ireland as it is administered in England was, for the first time, undertaken, and the experiment was crowned with the most complete success. Indeed, a condition of things was brought about under the new system for a parallel to which we must look in vain under the working 1359 of Coercion Acts. It is, therefore, a monstrous thing for the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to introduce into this measure a declaration as to the past history of Ireland which will place on record the assertion that in the opinion of this Parliament it is necessary and expedient to protect the lives of Irish jurors when we have on record in the most undeniable manner that during the only four years throughout the whole of the century that the Jury Law of Ireland was administered in the same spirit as the Jury Law in England the Executive and the Ministers responsible to the people of this country for the Government of Ireland declared that there had been great progressive improvement in the administration of law and justice, and that the success of the experiment fully con firmed the hopes that were entertained of it. Is it either just or reasonable to expect that we shall quietly submit to the gratuitous insult directed against us for which the Government can allege no reason whatever? Her Majesty's Ministers are not content with forging chains for the Irish people, but they desire to insult them into the bargain.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) last night wished, on the part of the Government, to make a statement in regard to the whole of this clause, which statement you, Mr. Courtney, ruled to be out of Order. But he refuses to do so now that we are dealing with a preamble, which, seeing that it raises the whole question of the clause, would afford a legitimate opportunity for doing so. The right hon. Gentleman persistently refuses to tell us what the intentions of the Government are. I object to this preamble for three reasons. In the first place, because it is a lie on the face of it. It alleges that under the present law Irish jurors are unable to discharge their duties without endangering their lives, property, and business. Upon that state of facts we take absolute and complete issue with the Government, and we assert in support of our position the unquestionable fact that in no instance but one—namely, in the case of Mr. Field, has any injury ever occurred to any juror in Ireland in consequence of his conduct in the discharge of his duty in the jury box. It must also be remembered that 1360 in the case of that Gentleman he was a juryman selected under the Crimes Act of 1882, and under a system which this Bill seeks to carry even still further. No doubt, Mr. Field did suffer injury in consequence of his action as a juror; but the criminals in that case were promptly and speedily brought to justice and punished. Therefore, the allegation contained in this preamble is absolutely and positively false, and on that ground we object to the insertion of such a preamble in an Act of Parliament. I have never seen any use made of a preamble in a legal argument, except sometimes to confuse an issue which may have been raised. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, says that this preamble serves the purpose of setting forth on the face of an Act of Parliament the reasons which have induced Parliament to pass it. Now, I take the liberty of saying that that is a thing which Parliament should never do. Parliament should be content to lay down, in plain language, what it intends to do, and it is idle to set forth their reasons on the face of the Act itself. This question of preambles is a very old question, and one which was discussed by a learned and distinguished Judge—Lord Bacon—some 200 or 300 years ago, when preambles to Acts of Parliament were much more common than they are now. My recollection of the language used by that distinguished man is that he condemned the practice on the ground that the function of Parliament was not to set forth reasons for what it did, but to state simply, clearly, and intelligibly, what it intended the law to be, and then to leave to courts of law the function of interpretation. My third objection to this preamble is that it is not expressed in good grammar. The preamble says—Whereas it is expedient to amend the law relating to the place of trial of offences committed in Ireland, for securing more fair and impartial trials, and for relieving jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business.I take it that what is meant is this—Whereas it is expedient to amend the law relating to the place of trial of offences committed in Ireland for the purpose of securing more fair and impartial trials, and for relieving jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business, be it enacted,and so on. This is only a very small point, but it is another instance of the scandalous manner in which the Bill has 1361 been drafted. It also shows the hurry with which the measure has been introduced. Upon these matters I do not think that satisfactory reasons have been given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to justify the Committee in rejecting the Amendment, and I would ask some Minister of the Crown to give some more intelligible reason for the opposition of the Government to the Amendment.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I might concur with the view expressed by the hon. Member who has just sat down as to the general virtue and efficacy of preambles, but I am not sure that this is an occasion when that matter can be very satisfactorily discussed. What is perfectly clear is, that the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary does not believe in his own arguments on this particular preamble, because he stated that the Government desire the present Bill to bear on the face of it the reasons why such an Act has been passed. If that argument is worth anything at all, it is an argument in favour of having a preamble to the Bill as a whole, as was done in reference to the Crimes Act of 1882. If it was worth while to have this provoking preamble to this clause, much more was it worth while to have a preamble to the whole Bill. I therefore submit, Mr. Courtney, that the right hon. Gentleman can have no very great faith in his own argument. The attitude of the Government in inserting this preamble, and then in adhering to it at this moment, is an excellent illustration of what we mean when we charge the delay which has taken place in getting this Bill through upon the want—I do not wish to use a harsh word—upon the want of competency displayed by those who have had the conduct and management of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman must have known that to insert a preamble of this kind would be to provoke hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway to dispute and challenge it. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh), that it adds nothing to the efficacy of the Bill. It does not make the Bill one atom stronger, more effective, or more operative in any single respect, but it is a pure piece of wanton and idle provocation. The right hon. Gentleman appears to be somewhat surprised that hon. Members below the 1362 Gangway should resent the insertion of an allegation of this kind, and there again he shows that want of appreciation which marks the whole policy of Her Majesty's Advisers—a want of appreciation of the mind and the working of the imagination of the people of Ireland. They do not seem to think it enough that they should inflict these exceptional disabilities and hardships upon the Irish people, but they must needs add superfluous and disputed allegations. They do not seem to be aware that a preamble of this kind must necessarily insult and wound the feelings of the Irish people. For themselves, they can gain nothing by it. That is perfectly clear. Although I have been glad to have the opportunity of pointing out what we mean by the inefficient conduct of this Bill on the part of Her Majesty's Government, at the same time, I think the matter of the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has been so much discussed at previous stages that I would recommend my hon. and learned Friend not necessarily to withdraw the Amendment, but to enable the Committee to proceed, as rapidly as possible, to a Division in which I, for one, shall have the pleasure of following him.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON (Cumberland, Cockermouth)
Oh, no. That will not do at all. The Government have put this preamble in their Bill, and they have put it in because they think it of importance. Hon. Members from Ireland think it is of importance too, and the matter must be properly discussed. I hope, therefore, that the discussion will go on for an hour or two. I am very sorry for the Government. I think there never was a Government which gave itself so much unnecessary trouble. The whole of this Bill is a piece of unnecessary trouble. They ought to have brought in a Bill of one clause saying—"Henceforth Ireland shall be ruled at the will and pleasure of the Lord Lieutenant." They might have discussed that point in one or two nights and got it settled, and by that means they would have saved the rest of the Session for those beneficent measures which they are so anxious to bring forward. I think the little discussion we have had this morning has been most instructive. It is instructive, because it will show 1363 who are the real obstructives. There [pointing to opposite Benches] sit the real obstructives. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who has brought in a preamble in an unusual manner, which is of no value whatever, except to irritate the Irish people by putting an insulting sentence into the Bill. I think that the Irish Members have a perfect right to discuss the Amendment as long as they are able to do so, and I hope they will not withdraw it; but will go on with the discussion until that happy moment when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House comes down and speaks the word of fate which will put an end to the discussion.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I have always considered the Whiteboy Clause the most obnoxious clause in the Bill, and that there is a most serions attempt in the second clause to interfere with the social life of the Irish people. Certainly; I still look upon that clause as even a more objectionable one than the fourth clause which we are now discussing. Then if a preamble is necessary at all, why should there not be a preamble prefixed to the most important clauses of the Bill. Why—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) has asked—is there no preamble prefixed to the beginning of the Bill itself? Here we have a preamble taken out of its place and inserted in a portion of the Bill in which no preamble has ever appeared before, as far as I know, in the history of any measure whatever. Moreover, it is not inserted for the purpose of making the Bill more effective; but for the purpose of making it more insulting to the Irish people. I listened to the remarks which were made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary, and I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman had quite made up his mind what to do with the latter portion of the clause. A suspicion crossed my mind that he was somewhat anxious that the Committee should spend a considerable amount of time in these harmless preliminary skirmishes, in order that he might arrange his plans for compelling a complete surrender in regard to the latter portion of the clause. I am very glad that this discussion has taken place, because it has placed the 1364 Government in a most unenviable position before the country and the world. The Government themselves cannot deny that these words were absolutely unnecessary. I am not a lawyer myself, and, therefore, I am bound to speak with modesty of the amateur attempts of the Chief Secretary to explain and expound the law; but I see that the right hon. Gentleman is at the present moment buttressed by two very able lawyers—the hon. and learned Solicitor General for England (Sir Edward Clarke) on one side, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) on the other. I now see approaching the portentous form—using the term purely in relation to the ability of the hon. and learned Member—of the Attorney General for England, and there are also present on the Treasury Bench the Home Secretary and the Solicitor General for Ireland. There are consequently five lawyers sitting there to support one layman, and I ask whether a single one of those five lawyers will rise in his place and declare that this clause, even if it be carried exactly as it stands, will add one particle or iota of strength either to the clause to which it is a preamble, or to any section of the Bill? I look upon that as a fair challenge. If the words add no effectiveness to the measure surely there is no necessity for rendering it wantonly and uselessly provocative and insulting. I hardly know at present whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland regards these words as really insulting to the Irish people or not—[Mr. A. J. BALFOUR: No.]—I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He does not think so. I am afraid that my hon. Friends sitting around me are not of the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, and with all respect for the Chief Secretary for Ireland, I will venture to assert that we are rather better judges of what the feeling of the Irish people is than he is himself. The right hon. Gentleman is not an Irishman by birth, nor is he an Irishman by adoption. The right hon. Gentleman has taken very good care not even to visit the country which he assists in governing. I do not find fault with the right hon. Gentleman for avoiding scenes of political conflict and turmoil in his holidays; but, at the same time, when we have a Chief Secretary for Ireland 1365 so absolutely ignorant of the country who is paid £5,000 a-year for governing it. [An Hon. MEMBER: Not £5,000, £4,500.J "Well, the difference is not very much, and it is immaterial to my argument. I am not in receipt of anything like that sum, but I know that if I were I should have felt it my duty to do something to acquaint myself with the condition of the country for governing which I was so liberally paid. If not, I should certainly not feel prepared to stand up in face of the united representation of the people of Ireland, and declare that a clause in a particular Bill is not insulting, which they say is both provoking and insulting. If this preamble is persisted in, I think it will be our duty to discuss each one of the several and different propositions which it contains. Let me call attention to the fact that this preamble does not consist of one proposition only, but is a statement of several propositions, to each of which the Irish Members offer a most decided and uncompromising challenge. The first statement is that it is expedient to amend the law relating to the place of trial of offences committed in Ireland. Well, we altogether deny that statement. It is not true that a fair trial cannot be obtained in Ireland, except in the case of the Orangemen, where we find the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland takes very good care to procure an acquittal by not fixing their place of trial in some county where the trial could be properly conducted. The second statement is that it is intended to secure more fair and impartial trials in Ireland. I have two answers to that. I say, in the first place, that trials in Ireland, either for fairness or impartiality, will compare favourably with those which take place in England, Scotland, and Wales, or in any other civilized country in the world. In the second place, we are not to accept a proposition of that nature as a mere academic proposition of the Chief Secretary; on the contrary, it is one which is made in grim earnest. The Irish are among the most peace-loving, the most orderly, the most well-conducted, and the most virtuous people in the world, and yet it is proposed, in this preamble, to proclaim Ireland to the world as a country filled with crime. What I maintain is that it will be impossible to obtain a fair and impartial trial by 1366 the measure which the Government are now proposing. If I were to propose a preamble to this clause—and I have as much right to propose a useless, wanton, and unnecessary preamble as the Government—I should say that this clause was expedient, in order to secure more unfair and partial trials; and I think I should be able to prove that proposition. A fair trial means a trial of a man by his peers, so that there may be a perfect parity and equality between man and man. The proposition of the Government is altogether opposed to that, because it provides that a man shall be handed over to trial, not by his peers, but by his religious, political, and social antagonists. Moreover, it is proposed to send the Irish peasants before such a tribunal at a moment when there is something like civil war between class and class. The third part of this preamble I object to still more strongly. It says that this clause is necessary in order to relieve jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business. I deny that jurors in Ireland are in any danger of their lives, property, or business. I maintain that jurors in Ireland have done their duty too well, rather than too ill, as between the Government and the people. I know many men in Ireland, men of strong Catholic and Nationalist sympathies, who have found political prisoners guilty solely against their feelings, even in cases where I myself would never have found a political prisoner guilty. I hold that as long as a man abstains from crime he should be at liberty to do what he can to secure the freedom and liberties of his country. At the Fenian trials, Catholic after Catholic, and Nationalist after Nationalist, went into the jury box and found men guilty time after time, although their only crime was that in despair of the future of their country they thought strong measures were necessary. The whole history of Ireland, as far as political trials are concerned, is a history not of a wanton disregard, but of a too scrupulous regard for the administration of the law. Compare the history of political trials in Ireland with the history of political trials in England. Hon. Members with short memories, and an imperfect historical knowledge, are in the habit of pointing out that persons charged with crime in Ireland have been acquitted because politics were mixed up in the accusa- 1367 tions made against them. Has that never occurred in England? Let me remind hon. Members of the time when a plot was hatched against the life of the late Emperor Napoleon by Orsini, and when an attempt was made to assassinate him on going to the Opera House in Paris. The Government of France accused the people of this country on that occasion of harbouring, associating with, and stimulating the conspirators to assassinate the reigning head of the French Empire. And the charge was just, because there is no doubt that Orsini's conspiracy met with considerable sympathy in this country. Indeed, I believe it is a fact that even some Members of this House were charged with assenting to and encouraging, if not actually, at any rate partially, in various other ways the persons who were guilty of this crime. [Sir EDWARD CLARKE dissented.] I see that the Solicitor General for England shakes his head. Do I understand him to mean a denial of my proposition? I should like the Solicitor General to commit himself to such a denial, because I believe I should be able to prove my case fully. I think the Solicitor General himself is old enough to remember the trial of Dr. Bernard. What was the charge against that gentleman? It was one of conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor Napoleon. Dr. Bernard was acquitted of that crime, although the evidence against him carried conviction to the minds of all impartial men, and the verdict of acquittal was received with tumultuous cheers; and in a very short time afterwards, when one of the ablest and most powerful Ministers this country ever had—Lord Palmerston—got up and introduced a Bill giving the Government power to deal with such conspiracies in future, it was opposed by so honoured a man as Mr. Cobden, who acted as Teller on the Division which proved fatal to the Government. It pains me very much to differ from the right hon. Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne upon this question, but I confess that I feel bound to take the advice of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Cockermouth Division of Cumberland (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) rather than that of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne. This preamble contains propositions which the Irish Members are bound to resist. We are absolutely called upon to discuss these propositions, and, for my part, I advise 1368 my hon. Friends to discuss them up to the moment when the modern—although I can scarcely say Olympian—Jove comes in and puts an end to the discussion.
§ MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
I sincerely trust that the Government will not be so infatuated as to insist upon this preamble. Of what possible use can it be except to add insult to injury? It may be said that it has not been introduced with the intention of insulting the Irish nation, but I maintain that a greater insult could not be offered to a nation. For, observe, its language is not confined to agrarian or political times, but it declares in so many words that an Irishman is incapable of doing justice. Thus it is an indictment against the whole Irish nation, alleging that Irish jurors will not do justice. If such an imputation were attempted to be conveyed against the impartiality of Welsh juries, I am satisfied that every Welsh Member would sit up all night to oppose it. I have heard it said that a Bill which requires a preamble stands self condemned. But if a preamble is necessary at all, why not put it in its proper place at the beginning of the Bill? It seems as if the Government have been afraid of expressing their own thoughts, and they have thought that by smuggling these words into the middle of the Bill, they would get them passed unchallenged.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
I think it must be conceded that precisely the same rule, and precisely the same principle, should be applied to a preamble, whether it is placed at the beginning of a Bill, where we would naturally expect to find it, or whether it is placed at the beginning of a clause in a Bill. Let me invite the attention of the Committee to the remarks which are made by the late Sir Erskine May upon this point, on page 560 of his work on the established usages of the House in regard to the postponement of the preamble of a Bill when it comes at the beginning of a Bill. He says—By a Standing Order of the 27th of November, 1882, it is provided that in Committee on a Bill, the preamble which has been postponed until after the consideration of the clauses without Question put.Sir Erskine May then proceeds to say—This course is adopted because the House has already affirmed the principle of the Bill on the second reading, and it is therefore the 1369 province of the Committee to settle the clause first, and then to consider the preamble in reference to the clauses only. By this rule the preamble is made subordinate to the clauses, instead of governing them.The Government, by asking us to vote this preamble, before we have settled the clause which it precedes, are reversing the rule laid down by Sir Erskine May, and they are asking us to make the clause subordinate to the preamble, instead of the preamble being, as it ought to be, subordinate to the clause. Now, I submit that by following the very unusual, if not unprecedented course of placing the preamble where it ought not to be—namely, in the middle, instead of at the beginning of a Bill, the Government are directly violating the spirit of a Standing Order of this House.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I am sorry that the Government refuse to accept the Amendment. No reason has been assigned for the insertion of these words. They get all they require by means of the enacting portion of the clause without this preamble at all. The propositions contained in the preamble, as has been ably shown by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), are not based upon facts or experience. We have heard a good deal about the difficulty of obtaining convictions in Ireland, but that is altogether contrary to my experience. At the Winter Assizes which have been held in the City of Cork, or at the ordinary Assizes which have taken place in other districts, a power of this kind has certainly not been required, and time after time the Government have been able to obtain the conviction of any prisoner they have considered it desirable to send for trial. In many cases, looking at the matter dispassionately, I am of opinion that the Government have obtained convictions where the jury have been more influenced by prejudice than by evidence. I have known of cases where persons convicted at the Cork Assizes nave been sentenced to death, and the sentence has been carried out. I recollect on one occasion having been present an hour after an execution had taken place, and I then saw the corpses of men who died protesting before God, with the Sacrament on their lips, that they were innocent of the 1370 charges which had been made against them. I make no complaint against the jurors for the verdicts they have returned, but I mention the fact simply as an argument, to show what it is possible to do at the present time under the ordinary law, and as an argument against the provisions of this clause which are to come on later. I maintain that the clause itself is altogether unnecessary. Unfortunately, we are in the position of having to discuss the necessity of the clause before we are invited to discuss the clause itself. As a matter of fact, we are invited to a sort of double-barrelled discussion. I think I am not overstating the case when I say that there are, at the present moment, some 250 or 260 persons undergoing penal servitude and various terms of long imprisonment loss than penal servitude, from the County of Kerry, who have been convicted at the Kerry and Cork Assizes. This fact abundantly proves that there is no necessity for a change of venue, for nothing further could be done if the prisoners had been taken to Dublin or Belfast to undergo their trial. Indeed, I think anyone who dispassionately inquires into the matter will say that in many of these cases a conviction would scarcely have been obtained from an English jury. We see these things taking place day by day, and I challenge the Government to point out whether or not there is, at the present moment, a man in gaol awaiting his trial because they do not know where to secure a fair and impartial trial. If they could do that there might be some reason for these insulting words. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary says they are not insulting. I fully admit that he does not intend them to be so; but the Chief Secretary must allow me to say that it is quite possible that whoever drafted the Bill was an Irishman, and the instinct of a Dublin Castle Irishman is the same wherever you find it. Not a word would he utter, not a sentence would he place on the paper which would not in itself be a distinct insult to the Irish people, whether he wished it to be so or not. This preamble says—Whereas it is expedient to amend the law relating to the place of trial of offences committed in Ireland.I think we have shown conclusively that it is not expedient, and that there is no necessity whatever for amending 1371 the law in that direction. It may be a little convenient for the Government, but when they use such a strong word as "expedient" I think they ought to show that there is an actual necessity for it. It must be remembered that in adopting this change of venue in Ireland, the Government are running in the teeth of what is recognized as the spirit of the ordinary law. I find myself drifting into an anticipation of what is to follow when we come to consider the enacting part of the clause itself; but the irregularity I am guilty of is chargeable to the Government for putting in the clause an unnecessary preamble, and thereby inviting irregularity. As a matter of fact, the Government are anticipating, in a most inconvenient way, the discussion which must follow afterwards in its natural place. What do the Government want with a preamble? That they will be able to get the preamble we know perfectly well; but they will only get it with the trouble of applying the closure and forcing us to silence. No doubt they will be able to get the entire clause by resorting to the same means; but they wish to have it stated in the Bill, and send it forth to the world that no fair and impartial trial can be obtained in Ireland, a statement entirely unjustified by the facts. The speech which the Chief Secretary made upon introducing the Bill may be called the real preamble of the measure, and it amounted to this—"Whereas I have been told a certain number of fables and stories in regard to the administration of justice in Ireland; whereas I know nothing about Ireland; whereas I intend to know nothing about Ireland; and whereas I pride myself on my incapacity to know anything about Ireland; therefore, I declare that a Crimes Bill is necessary." That would have been a fitting preamble to the Bill. As to the clause itself, there is no limit to the discussion which might be initiated upon it. Can anyone pretend that it is fairer to take a Kerry peasant to Belfast or to Dublin, and to get him tried by a jury of Orangemen, or by a jury of broken-down landlords, than to try him in the county in which his alleged offence has been committed. Some of these so-called broken-down landlords never had any land at all; but they deem it a fashionable thing to swagger about and say that they could easily treat their 1372 friends with champagne if they could only get their rents. The moment these persons see a frieze coat on a peasants' back they say—"This is one of the men who are stopping the payment of rent, and if he is not guilty of the offence with which he is charged he is undoubtedly guilty of something else, and therefore it is just as well to convict him." It is too much to ask us to swallow this clause on the assertion and assumption that its object is to secure a fair trial. The Government say that it is necessary to adopt a provision for a change of venue, and unfortunately the matter is one over which the Irish Members have no control. They are certain to be outvoted upon it; but it is going too far for the Chief Secretary to require us to assert by a vote of this House that this clause is necessary in Ireland in order to secure a fair and impartial trial. I think that by this time the right hon. Gentleman ought to have discovered that, whoever has drafted the Bill, has adopted the very worst principle so far as the acceleration of the progress of the measure is concerned. There is no doubt whatever what the game of Her Majesty's Government is. They make a hollow pretence of desiring to get on ahead. They tell us from time to time that we are obstructing the progress of the Bill; but they know that we are helping them in the game they desire to play. As a matter of fact, they rejoice in the opposition which the Bill has received, because they are afraid of undertaking any other kind of legislation. Unhappily, we are in such a position that we can take no other course. Personally, we care very little for your Coercion Acts; but we have to stand here to defend the poor and helpless people of Ireland, and we cannot forego the use of every weapon which may ward off as long as possible the application of the coercion that is to be imposed upon them. Certainly, we cannot agree with this preamble; we do not believe that there is a word of truth in it, and, except under the pressure of extreme compulsion, we shall resist its adoption as long as we have the power.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I think the discussion which has taken place has made it pretty clear that, in introducing this clause for the amendment of the Criminal Law in Ireland, their only intention has been to relegate 1373 the trial of indictable offences to a particular class of jurymen. I think that the 1st clause of the Bill might have been looked upon as an adequate preamble to the rest of the provisions. I fail to see why this preamble should have been held over until this clause was reached. In my view, the 2nd clause is a worse clause than the one we are now discussing; but it would seem that, in drafting the Bill, the Government have been naturally struck with the necessity of providing some means for justifying the extraordinary nature of the provisions of the Bill. Indeed, in the 1st clause, which deals with the preliminary inquiry, there are several phrases which are only consistent with such a genesis of this measure. The clauses themselves appear to have been mixed up by the draftsman in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, without any regard to connection. I propose, however, to deal with the matter as a lawyer ought to deal with the effect of the words which I understand to regulate the clause. If this, in the opinion of the Government, is a preamble which is a necessary and useful part of the clause—if they consider that it means anything at all—why did not they introduce it at the beginning of their Bill? In my view, this clause has been introduced in order to exclude Ulster from the operation of the measure. It is a matter of public scandal in Ireland that in Party trials in Ulster one side invariably gets off, while the other side is unjustly convicted. That is perfectly notorious, and is as much a part of the history of trials in Ireland as the alleged failure of trials for agrarian offences in other parts of Ireland. Even the Judges themselves have been compelled to confess that the trial of offenders in Ulster has beer as complete a failure as the trial of agrarian offenders in the South and West of Ireland. Nevertheless, what do we find in this Bill? It is intended to confine the operation of the Bill to proclaimed districts, and the Government will not dare to proclaim Ulster. They have consequently excluded from the operation of the Bill one of the places where trial by jury has proved to be a failure. In the face of the notorious failure of prosecutions against Orangemen in Ulster, I fail to comprehend why these clauses should be confined to proclaimed districts. It only shows that the Government are not honest in their desire to remedy the 1374 evils which they declare to exist. I am afraid that they are actuated by something lower and more insidious than a desire to amend the Criminal Law, and that they have behind some object which is worthy only of Dublin Castle. Let me refer the Committee to the paragraph in the clause which commences at line 30, and which, in my opinion, proves the crafty and insidious character of this preamble. In that part of the clause permission is given to—The defendant, or any defendant, if more than one, in the prescribed manner and within the proscribed time, to apply to the High Court to discharge or vary any such order for the removal of a trial, upon the ground that the trial can be more fairly and impartially had in a county other than the county named in the order of removal, and thereupon the High Court may order that the trial shall he had in that county in which it shall appear that the trial can be most fairly and impartially had.When an application of that nature comes to be discussed before the High Court, the Counsel for the prosecution will be able to quote the preamble as an expression of the opinion of the Legislature, and it will be quite sufficient to state certain things, and simply refer to the preamble, without giving anything like a reasonable amount of proof that a fair and impartial trial cannot be had. I maintain that this clause is dishonestly intended to exclude Ulster, and that it j is craftily drafted in order to prevent a defendant from obtaining a right to a change of venue, and to place him in the hands of his enemies. There is one class of people who are constantly tried in Ulster by juries with whom they have been historically for a large number of years at feud, and, undoubtedly, such prisoners are not able to obtain a fair and impartial trial. They are simply—to use the expression employed by a prisoner in an agrarian trial, "driven into the shambles." I have read of an Irish speaking witness who in Ireland 200 years ago refused to attend a trial at Dungannon on the ground that if he was found in Court he was certain to be tried and executed the next day. That is the tradition and experience which certain classes of the Irish people have of trials in Ulster. They know that in the past they have been unable to obtain a fair trial there, and yet the Government provide them with no protection in the shape of securing a change of venue. If that is true of a large portion of Ulster, why are the victims of this 1375 unfair and. impartial system of the administration of the law not to have the protection of a change of venue? Yet there is no particle of power of that kind given in this clause. If the Government say that there is a necessity for inserting this preamble, I contend that it should contain propositions which would be fair to both sides.
§ MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
The further we proceed with the Bill the more convinced I am of the correctness of the opinion I have already expressed in condemnation of the measure, that its introduction is a disgrace and an indignity, to this House. Certainly the new preamble we have now under; discussion is the worst specimen of all the worst characteristics of the measure which have yet come under our notice. My objection to this preamble, and the reason why I venture for a moment to trespass upon the attention of the Committee is, that it is improper to insert phrases in an Act of Parliament—which is generally presumed to be an embodiment of wisdom and of truth—which are utterly divested either of wisdom or of truth. We do not, of course, expect much wisdom from the Representatives of the Irish Government on the Treasury Bench, but we do expect more truth and honesty from them, than to thrust into the measure a preamble which bears on every line of it a lie. I think that it is time English Members should protest against the indignity which is placed upon them in being compelled to pass such a preamble into law. The absence of wisdom on the part of Her Majesty's Advisers is, I think, sufficiently indicated by the turmoil and the heat of this discussion which their absurdity has provoked. The Government, whatever they may say to the contrary, are the real obstructives to the progress of the Public Business of the country. This Bill is a measure to foster and promote obstruction, and they have introduced it because they know that if they had attempted any other legislative measure they would have been brought into conflict with those crutches—the Unionist Members, on whom they have now to depend for support. In my opinion this clause, and, indeed, the whole of the Bill, will be a direct provocation and instigation to violence and crime in Ireland, although I will not go so far as to say that it is a 1376 part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government to do whatever they can to drive the down-trodden and ignorant peasantry of Ireland into irregular and criminal courses. The Chief Secretary has never been able to justify the introduction of this Bill by anything better than anonymous anecdotes and idle tales, which have over and over again been contradicted and disproved. And yet he continues to repeat them in official papers, as if they had never been denied. His Unionist supporters do the same; and I took the liberty of assuring the electors of St. Austell that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) was down there to propagate his policy by repeating these false stories, and I am here to repeat the same charge. I merely mention this as a specimen of the dishonesty by which the proceedings of the Government in connection with this Bill are characterized. They do not hesitate, no matter what contradiction is advanced in this House, to reiterate their calumnies. There has been no proof alleged by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) this morning in justification of this preamble, which is directly levelled against hon. Members on this side of the House, and the people of Ireland generally. This preamble amounts to nothing more or less than an insult to the Irish nation, but it is all of a piece with the policy of Her Majesty's Government. We need not be surprised at anything Her Majesty's Government do. However irregular, and unconstitutional, and revolutionary their proceedings may be I should not be surprised. If we recollect the policy laid down by the Head of the Government last year, it is perfectly obvious this insult is deliberate and intentional; it is simply in pursuance of the declaration by the Marquess of Salisbury at the meeting at Her Majesty's Theatre last year, in which he compared the Irish people to a set of Hottentots. It is hardly worth while discussing whether a preamble is necessary and expedient or not. I think that verbiage of every kind, especially in an Act of Parliament, should be avoided. The less we have of unnecessary words in this Act of Parliament the better it will be for Her Majesty's Government; but if we must have a preamble at all, I think we have a right to ask that it 1377 should be put in its proper place, and I therefore suggest to Her Majesty's Government that it would be wise to postpone the discussion of this preamble until we can take it at the regular time-namely, when all the clauses have been gone through. That is not an unreasonable suggestion; because they have already postponed some important parts of their Bill until a more favourable opportunity arises for their discussion. Whether that opportunity will ever come remains to be seen. The Government only got through before the recent short holiday Section 2 of the Bill by means of throwing over the most important part of that section.
§ THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman must address himself more directly to the Question. He is rambling about in a most extraordinary fashion.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
I will bow to your ruling at once, Mr. Courtney; but perhaps I may say I was only offering a suggestion and giving my reasons for it. If that suggestion is out of Order, I will offer another which, I hope, will not meet with your censure; and that is, that if the Government think it essential that we should have a preamble to this clause, the preamble should run somewhat differently from that they have placed before us. I think this would form a preamble quite as useful and much more truthful than the present, "Whereas the tyrannical Tory Government is bolstered up"—
§ MR. CONYBEARE
Well, Mr. Courtney, as the preamble I was going to suggest is not one, apparently, that is likely to receive your sanction, I shall certainly not press it upon the Committee.
§ MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
There was once a distinguished statesman who said he was unable to draw an indictment against a whole nation. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) regards that statesman with the respect which his name receives from others. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman probably looks down upon him with that pretty air of simpering superiority with which it seems to me he is accustomed to survey mankind from China to Peru in general, and from Donegal to Cork in particular. I, however, cherish the 1378 deepest respect—respect which I hold in common with all intelligent men—for the name of Burke and the opinions of Burke, and I am not able to join with him in drawing an indictment against the whole Irish nation. I feel that incapability simply because no evidence has been brought before me to justify the indictment. If the Chief Secretary for Ireland insists upon making this general charge against the Irish people, I think, when challenged, he ought to have brought his evidence for the indictment. He has done nothing of the kind. I have listened here with great attention to these Irish debates, as attentively as any Member of this House, and I have heard nothing adduced in the way—I shall not say of convincing evidence—but of evidence at all, to justify such a general and sweeping charge as is contained in the preamble to this clause. We have received nothing from the Chief Secretary except his own personal assurance that he knows that there cannot be fair and impartial trials in Ire-and, and that jurors are in danger of their lives, property, and business. But, Sir, we from Scotland have had some experience of general assertions from the present Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) in matters of a similar nature. I shall not, because it is not strictly in Order, allude to them further than to say this—that having been in controversy with the Chief Secretary for Ireland as to the rapacity of landlords in the Western Islands of Scotland, and having received a categorical contradiction from him, I think that in face of the statement of the Skye Commission, in which it is proved that landlords have been exacting from their tenants rents from 100 to 120 per cent beyond the true value of their land, the right hon. Gentleman's personal assurances must come to me with a diminished power compared with what I might at one time have been disposed to regard them. If we are to have historical disquisitions inserted into this Bill, if we are to turn the Committee of the House of Commons into an historical association for the time being, our historical disquisitions should at all events be accurate, and we should have evidence produced and have an opportunity of discussing it. I have no desire to enter into any such discussion; I hold that the whole matter is irrelevant. The proposed insertion of a preamble of this 1379 description is altogether an excrescence upon the proper business of this Committee. We have nothing to do with it. We are here, not in the interests of scientific criticism or historical investigation, but simply in the interest of practical legislation, and we have enough to do with difficulties in that department without launching out into the mare magnum of large and undefined and irrelevant inquiry. The Government are involving us not merely in a matter of ordinary history, but in a matter of difficult and delicate scientific investigation, because in the way in which it is put the question is raised as a question of natural history rather than of civil history. The right hon. Gentleman refers to the peculiar constitution of the Irish nature; because his statement is one upon which there is proposed to be based an enactment for all time. His statement is not founded upon certain accidental peculiarities in Irish history, but upon certain permanent characteristics of the Irish nature. The proposition which the Chief Secretary seeks to establish really come to this—that there is something in the permanent nature of Irishmen which makes fair and impartial trials in that country impossible, and that continuously and for ever exposes jurors to danger to their lives, property, and business. Well, the evidence that I require to convince me of the truth of such a proposition is not simply a few narratives, or even a few historical facts, that may have been gleaned by the Chief Secretary, or by any Committee of this House who may have investigated the matter. We ought to have a special Committee of ethnologists empowered to call for persons, papers, and records. The whole matter, to my mind, is worse than ridiculous. I think there is not only a ridiculous side to it, but a tragic one; and I and others heartily join with the Representatives from Ireland when they resent this preamble as a wanton and deliberate insult to their nationality and to themselves. Nothing can be more insulting than to place a permanent record anywhere against the impartiality, and against the fairness and the order of a whole people. This preamble is insulting in the very last degree. I am afraid that possibly the fact that it is an insult is in the view of the Government a recommendation for it, because I have sat long enough in this House to see 1380 that the attitude—the mutual attitude—of the Irish nation and Dublin Castle is one which is unique in the history of civilized society. I require no further evidence than I get from what passes across the floor of this House to know that Dublin Castleism is an insolent and arrogant tyranny. I do not wonder at the spirit of resentment which often animates the Representatives from Ireland who sit on this side of the House, and which impels them to take action and make statements which possibly an absolute standard of abstract propriety would, even in their own minds, occasionally incline them to condemn. I can make every excuse for them when I see the provocation which they daily and hourly almost encounter from the evil spirit of Dublin Castleism. And here we have that spirit in what I may call its perfect embodiment. We have the flower, if there can be a flower proceeding from so degraded a stem—we have here the formal expression of the insolent and unauthorized tyranny which is the animating spirit of what I ventured to call Dublin Castleism. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) the other day declared that one of the chief causes of the so-called obstruction in this House was what he called the arrogant speeches that are made in this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and I understand he further intimated that in his place in Parliament he would not scruple to make good the assertion he had made outside, from the fulfilment of which promise I expect a most edifying and interesting passage of arms between the two right hon. Gentlemen. I, in all seriousness, unite my voice to that of others who have spoken upon this matter in entreating the Government not to persevere in a course which can do no practical good, but which must lead to great practical mischief, and which I can only characterize, if persevered with, as puerile obstinacy indulging in a spiteful and indefensible malignity.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
I think that after the challenge thrown out by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) we should have some further reply from the Government. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member 1381 for East Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace) that the object of the Government in this preamble is to deliberately insult and exasperate the people of Ireland. There might have been a useful object in this preamble from their point of view if they could have answered the challenge of my hon. Friend (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), if they could have said that this preamble would add anything whatever to the Bill. As they have not answered the challenge, we are entitled to assume that the Bill is complete without this preamble. We are driven by necessity to the conclusion that the only object that they can have is to insult and exasperate and annoy the people of Ireland. We ought not, however, to be surprised at this attitude of the Government, because it is their habitual attitude in respect to the discussions upon this Bill. It might have been thought that upon minor points of this sort the Government would be inclined to give way to the united representation of the Representatives of Ireland. I feel no surprise that they have not acted on that principle—the principle of their existence is opposition to the Irish Representatives. That is the reason why they are seated on the opposite Bench—that is the reason why they are backed up by their friends the Liberal Unionists, and I shall be wholly surprised if, on any point at all, they yield to any representations made by the great majority of the Irish people. A good many reasons have been given why this preamble should be resisted; but my great objection to this preamble is that it is a lie. The words "for securing more fair and impartial trials" imply that trials in Ireland, especially for political and agrarian offences, have been fair and impartial in the past. If that be implied, all we can say is that the statement is an unfounded and notorious falsehood. Go back as far as you like, and it will be impossible to prove that any trial for political or agrarian crime in Ireland has been free from partiality. Undoubtedly this clause is needed to stereotype the practice of Dublin Castle in poisoning and polluting the fountains of Justice, and turning the Courts of Justice into shambles The present preamble is one which contains an unfounded falsehood, and is intended to mislead and misrepresent the state of things in Ireland. That being the case, 1382 I have no hesitation in opposing this preamble, and in continuing the discussion upon it until the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) chooses to put an end to it by the new method of getting rid of debate.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S)
I can readily understand the object of this preamble when I read it in conjunction with the whole of the section. The powers given by the 4th clause must be exercised within the purview of this preamble, and the preamble lays down that it is necessary virtually to remove trials from one county to another for the purpose of—Securing more fair and impartial trials, and for relieving jurors from danger to their lives, property, and business.Then the 4th clause goes on to enable the Attorney General to certify. The certificate will be virtually an insistance that the Court shall change the venue of the trial from one county to another. And now the real object of the preamble comes in, because when the section goes on to give an appeal from the order of the Court it throws upon the defendant the duty of moving that the trial can be had more fairly and impartially somewhere else, and on that appeal the Court will, no doubt, quote this preamble as a legislative declaration that the change of venue was absolutely necessary. If we go on to read the language of the latter portion of the section, we discover that once the Attorney General has shifted the trial out of the county in which it ought naturally to be held, even the High Court of Appeal will have no power, in the face of the words of the clause, to send the trial back to the original county. They can send a trial from one county to another, but they cannot send it back to the original county. This preamble lays down two things. The first is that the change of venue is necessary "for securing more fair and impartial trials;" and, secondly, that jurors in a proclaimed district are now subject to "danger to their lives, property, and business." Although in the clause there is a great deal as to fair and impartial trials, there is little or nothing which deals with danger to lives, property, and business. I do not see the object of having such a preamble as this—of laying down a statement and then abandoning it. Therefore, for that 1383 reason alone I think the preamble ought not to be passed. In addition to that, I do not see why the preamble should be introduced in the middle of a Bill, when the Bill itself has no preamble whatever. If the preamble were in its usual place undoubtedly it would be subjected to long discussion. I cannot see that this preamble can have any really beneficial operation—the only operation which it can have is to tie the hands of the Court of Appeal.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
Mr. Courtney, it is unquestionably the duty of the Irish Members to protest against this gratuitous insult upon themselves and their country; and I think that in our protest we shall have the support of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who have acted with us hitherto in opposing this Coercion Bill, and to whom we, as Representatives of the Irish people, are indebted for their very strenuous endeavours to resist the coercion proposals of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Brad-laugh) pointed out very properly the result which will flow from this preamble. He said that if the Government continue to persist in retaining this preamble there will be a certain waste of time of the Committee, and considerable exasperation of the Irish Representatives. I think he was justified by the result in making that remark. Even from the point of view of the Government, would not the clause be quite as effective if this preamble were omitted? The preamble will not add to the efficacy of the Bill, and it will not expedite the working of the Bill, while it conveys a most gratuitous insult to the people we represent. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) has said that, as far as he is concerned, it is not intended to offer an insult to the Irish people. Well, Sir, he makes that statement; but I think the action of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Ireland does not confirm the position the right hon. Gentleman has taken up. We, the Representatives of Ireland, say that this preamble does contain a great insult upon the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman contradicts that assertion; but I think it will be granted that we are more competent to speak for the Irish people than the right hon. Gentleman. The right 1384 hon. Gentleman has no acquaintance with Ireland, and he does not take the proper means of obtaining such an acquaintance. In the course of this debate my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) complained of the right hon. Gentleman not making himself more acquainted with Ireland; perhaps it would be better if he would spend a little more time in Ireland. But, after all, I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman does not remain long in Ireland, because I imagine that living there must be a most disagreeable duty to him; living in Ireland must bring him face to face with the sickening scenes of barbarity that are perpetrated in that country, with the direct approval of his own Government. Though I disapprove of the rôle played by the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and by the Government in this matter, I have a certain amount of pity for the right hon. Gentleman, because I recognize that he has undertaken a most impossible task.
§ MR. P. J. POWER
I will not pursue that line of argument, Mr. Courtney, as it meets with your disapproval. Now, this preamble sets forth that it is the intention of the framers of the Bill to lessen intimidation, and to get fair trials in Ireland. We maintain that there never has been intimidation practised towards jurors in Ireland when the ordinary law has prevailed in that country. I think the Blue Books presented to this House will prove that no intimidation has prevailed in Ireland in respect to jurors who conscientiously exercised their rights when the ordinary law has prevailed. Perhaps while the ordinary law has not prevailed, and while we have had exasperating Coercion Acts at work in our country there have been some cases of intimidation. It is necessary that the Committee should remember that cases of intimidation really do not occur while the ordinary law prevails, but only when the ordinary law is superseded by a Coercion Act. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary and the Government wish us to go back to that state of extraordinary law of coercion when intimidation does prevail. I know the cases to which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secre- 1385 tary has alluded—they occurred under Coercion Acts which produced a state of things like the state of things which this Bill will produce. As pointed out by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the East Division of Edinburgh (Mr. Wallace), this preamble insults the Irish people, and insults them in the grossest possible way. It makes the assertion that not at one fixed period are the Irish people unfit to perform the duties of jurymen, but it makes the assertion that for all time hence they are incompetent to perform those duties. It makes the assertion that the Irish nation cannot be trusted on their oaths, and that if they are to be put into the jury-box they will commit perjury. These are some of the reasons which make it our duty to protest, while we are allowed, against the imposition of this further insult upon our people. The Government say they do not wish to insult or to outrage the feelings of the Irish people; but I think that their every-day action proves such is not the case. The Prime Minister never opens his mouth in public without insulting the Irish people in the grossest possible way. This preamble says it is the intention of the Government to obtain more fair and impartial trials than they can obtain under the existing law, and they want us to go back to a state of things that existed some four years ago. If hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to know how the jury system worked under the Crimes Act of 1882, I beg of them to read a speech delivered in this House during the Autumn Session of 1884 by the hon. and learned Gentleman the present Solicitor General (Sir Edward Clarke). The hon. and learned Gentleman made a really able speech in what is known as the Maamtrasna Debate, and he criticized the very modes adopted to procure convictions which his Government now wish to re-enact. He went into detail on this subject, and proved that the very system which his Government now wish to re-enact produced perjury and produced the very greatest miscarriages of justice. For these reasons, and for many others which have been urged by Members on this side of the House, it is our bounden duty to oppose the fresh insult which this preamble throws on our people; and in doing that we feel sure that we shall be supported by our Liberal Friends who 1386 have acted so loyally with us in withstanding other insults flung at our people.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Mr. Courtney, it is very seldom I get up in this House to congratulate Her Majesty's Government. However, upon the present occasion I must most sincerely congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant for having, in the most gratuitous manner, offered a typical insult to the Irish people. It must strike the most superficial observer—and goodness knows there are superficial observers enough of this 1887 Coercion Act—it must strike the most superficial observer as extraordinary that this is the only clause in the Bill with a preamble. What is the object of this preamble? There is no preamble to the Bill. Then why have this insinuation—this series of insinuations—because we find there are three distinct insinuations brought forward in this preamble? Is it merely to try and make us more angry than sometimes we cannot help feeling? I defy anyone sitting on these Benches not to feel angry at the gratuitous insults which are poured upon the Irish nation and their Representatives. This is a mere wanton insult upon our people, and I sincerely hope that even yet the Chief Secretary, who has sat through this debate, will be led into the right path, and give up this silly emanation from what I must call a vacillating and feeble intellect. Now, this preamble is divided into three sections. First of all, it wants to amend the law relating to the place of trial; and, secondly, it seeks to secure more fair and impartial trials. I am persuaded the first portion of the preamble will not be acted upon in its integrity. You will see that in the case of offences committed in certain districts—say, in Kerry, Clare, and possibly in Tipperary and Connemara—the venue will be changed. Speaking as a Protestant, I affirm that in the cases of Catholics an endeavour will be made to secure trials by Protestant juries, by men who are inspired by the same description of dislike and hatred towards a section of the Irish people which distinguishes the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. Catholics will be handed over to men who differ from them in religion and politics—handed over for execution, be that execution of the major or the minor degree. 1387 [A laugh.] Well, if a man is hanged, that is execution in the major degree. I am perfectly certain, from what I have seen in connection with change of venue in the case of political offences, that this clause will be worked most improperly. To change the venue is practically to hand the people over to their enemies. Now, the second object of the clause is to secure more fair and impartial trials. If you take Catholic peasants from Connemara or Kerry to Dublin, to be tried by the same tradesmen in and about the suburbs of Dublin, and who, as a rule, are Protestants, instead of securing a more fair and impartial trial you will do exactly the reverse. When the second reading of the Bill was proposed we were treated to a series of anecdotes from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary. When those anecdotes were analyzed the right hon. Gentleman had to retreat from the position he took up. No one made him retreat more precipitately than the midwife of Galway, whom the right hon. Gentleman has been afraid to face, for he has never gone over to Ireland since that highly intellectual lady has prepared a warm reception for him. The anecdotes are too trifling to obtain any credence from rational people. I sincerely hope that hon. Members opposite will see that practically this preamble is a stupid, silly, and foolish production, and that they will use their influence with Members of the Treasury Bench, who are responsible for its production, to get it withdrawn.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
From time to time during the discussion of this Bill we have had what appears to be a bitter complaint from the Government Bench of the unnecessary consumption of time taken up in the consideration of these clauses. Now, it seems to me that the attitude of the Government with regard to the particular question before the Committee is proof positive of the absolute hollowness and insincerity—I will not say falseness—of the representations which have come from the Government Bench with regard to obstruction. There is no preamble to this Bill at all, large as is the scope and drastic as are the provisions of the Bill. As to this particular clause, it has been considered necessary, or a pretence of considering it necessary is made, to introduce a preamble which does not 1388 carry anything further than it would be carried without it—a preamble which has absolutely no affect whatsoever upon the Bill, and for the presence of which not one jot of justification has been adduced. If the preamble were omitted the clause would be equally strong, and the interpretation of the clause by any Judge would be equally simple. Moreover, the preamble is wantonly and gratuitously offensive, offensive in a very peculiar way. It alleges not merely that impartial trial cannot be had, but that the whole class of jurors in Ireland require protection in respect not only to their peace of mind, but to their property, their person, and their lives. To libel the whole people of a country in this gratuitous manner is a thing which is unparalleled in the drafting of a Bill. If anything in the way of a preamble were necessary in connection with this section, it ought to have been introduced in the beginning of this portion of the Bill, because a few lines further up you have the heading—"Special jury and removal of trial." That is where the preamble ought to have been brought in if necessary at all. But I merely rise to emphasize this particular view, which I challenge anyone to dispute or disprove, that the insistance of the Government on the retention of these words, which are offensive and unnecessary, is a signal exemplification of their old policy as carried out in connection with this Bill. They pretend they object to obstruction. They themselves have been obstructing for more than two hours to-day. What is the true policy of the Government? It is this—they want to see the time of the present Session consumed; they are glad to see the time of Parliament consumed as it is now being consumed over this particular Bill. Why? Because it does not suit them to have the Bill got out of the way. They are desirous that the whole Session should be taken up, because they are not themselves prepared to bring forward any other measure they can hope to carry. If this Bill is got out of the way, there is no other point of union between them and the so-called Liberal Unionists. That is the reason why we have seen the Government carrying on the gross and unjustifiable piece of obstruction that has been practised since the beginning of the present Sitting until now—10 minutes to 3 o'clock. I hope the country at large will realize 1389 the significance of the position the Government have taken up to-day, which has simply resulted in a profitless waste of half a Sitting, when the Sitting is limited, as it is on Wednesday. We have not had one single word of justification or of reason from the Government in explanation of their attitude. My explanation is this—and I challenge anyone to dispute it—the Government want the time of this Session of Parliament to be consumed over this Crimes Bill, because they are unable usefully to occupy the time of the House with any measure of their own which they can reasonably expect to pass. From time to time, to suit their own malignant policy, they think it necessary to make a show of irritation at what they are pleased to call obstruction. Their irritation is a mere pretence; it is a mere profession held out before the country in order to intensify the hostile feelings which prevail in this country in regard to Irish affairs. But the people of England, having now turned their attention to the matter in a manner they never did before, will be, I believe, able to appreciate the significance of the attitude of the Government, and the hollowness of the charges of obstruction which they make.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
Mr. Courtney, I do not wish to stand between the Committee and a Division for more than a few moments. The Government are not in a position at the present moment to apply the clôture, but we are perfectly satisfied with the discussion which has taken place. We are still more satisfied with the contrast between the attitude of the Government in insisting upon unnecessary phraseology, and our attitude in bringing the debate to an earlier close than we may have been expected to do.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 180; Noes 116: Majority 64.—(Div. List, No. 199.) [3.10 P.M.]
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I desire now, Mr. Courtney, to move an Amendment which does not appear upon the Paper. It is to omit the two enacting paragraphs of the 1st sub-section of the clause. I move this Amendment for the purpose of raising a point again which I have already raised in the form of a Question. I asked yesterday the 1390 Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) what necessity there was for this provision at all, and I drew his attention to a case which recently came before the Court of Queen's Bench in Iroland—a case in which a man belonging to Kerry was charged with murder and returned for trial. He was an Emergency man, and it was said he could not get a fair trial in Kerry. An application was made to change the venue to Cork, and it was granted by the Court of Queen's Bench. I raised the point yesterday whether it was not the case that the power of the Queen's Bench was limited. I asked the right hon. Gentleman at the time, if the Courts of Law in Ireland had that power already, what was the object of this sub-section designed to give power that existed already? The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that until the proper time came and the point was raised on the details of the Bill he could not give an explanation of the intentions of the Government in inserting this sub-section. He said he should show that in his view the powers the Courts of Law had at present were not sufficiently extensive, or that some obstacle existed in the way of their efficiently exercising their powers. Well, I now wish to obtain the explanation the right hon. and learned Gentleman said he would give of this proposal to introduce into an Act of Parliament, in the form of a new enactment, a provision which he says is already practically the existing law.
In page 3, line 19, to leave out the words "Where an indictment for a crime committed in a proclaimed district has been found against a defendant, or a defendant has been committed for trial for such crime."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'Where' stand part of the Clause."
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
There exists at the present time a machinery by which a change of venue can be brought about in certain cases at Common Law. The debate on the second reading went on that assumption, and I made that statement at the time to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell). 1391 I pointed out that a Common Law ease might be removed to the Queen's Bench; that when there an application might be made to enter upon the record a suggestion of change of venue; and that the record might thus be sent down to a particular place for trial. The complicated character of the machinery is such as to render it almost impossible to have a change of venue at Common Law under ordinary circumstances. The time which is consumed is considerable, and that alone is a great objection; accordingly, we find that both in English and Irish law the occasions on which this machinery has been put in motion have been very few. On some occasions the Crown has made application under the provisions of the Common Law in Ireland, with a view of having a change of venue; but it has not been successful more than once or twice. Now and then a change of venue has been allowed on the application of accused persons, because no resistance has been offered by the Crown—the Crown having come to the conclusion that in the interests of justice the application should be agreed to. In a murder case from Cork, I put it to hon. Members whether there would not be as much chance of getting a fair trial in Dublin as in Cork itself? [Cries of ''No, no!"] Well, I have given the reason why the Government think it necessary to have the alteration in the law proposed in this Bill; and when we come to discuss the various Amendments to be moved to this clause we shall be able to show that, unless the complicated character of the existing machinery for bringing about a change of venue is considerably modified, it cannot be considered reasonably effectual for its purpose. We shall be able to show, generally, that the machinery which exists at the present time must be altered, and that there are other difficulties at present which render a free exercise of change of venue impossible. Such is our object in introducing this clause, and I trust that hon. Members opposite will be satisfied with this explanation, and will allow us to make progress with this section. I trust there will not be a long discussion on the question raised by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. M. Healy).
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I quite concur in the observation of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that there should not be a long discussion; but he 1392 will permit me to say that on the subject before the Committee he has not been so argumentative as he usually is when answering questions from this side of the House. I failed to gather from his speech any reason for making a new legal provision for bringing about change of venue, having regard to the existing provisions of the law. The only tangible thing which I can find in his speech is that he says the procedure under the existing law is of a somewhat complicated character. I object as much as anyone to having a legal procedure in any case which is notoriously complicated; but if there is any class of case which would warrant complicated procedure, it is this case of changing the venue in which a prisoner is to be tried. If the scenes that were enacted under the Act of 1882 are to be repeated, and if unfortunate people from Connemara are to be brought up for trial, I, for my part, shall not regard it as of any advantage to disturb the safeguard which is at present thrown over the liberty of these people in the shape of the complex procedure which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has described. The obtaining of changes of venue will be facilitated by doing away with the complex machinery to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has referred, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman will see for himself the difficulty of maintaining his position in this argument as to complex procedure. He must see perfectly well that no argument founded on considerations of that kind will be sufficient to warrant such an enactment as this we are discussing; therefore, he has hinted, and he has done more than hint, at some further difficulties of policy that stand in the way of the free exercise of the law as to change of venue. He has stated that, apart from this consideration of complex procedure, there are difficulties in the way of a free exercise of change of venue as it at present exists. I invite him to say what those difficulties are. I have referred him to a particular case. The only ground alleged for change of venue in that particular case was the fear that an impartial trial could not be had in the venue where the trial was originally to take place, and the Government have themselves alleged in this very clause that the ground on which they seek changes 1393 of venue under the machinery provided by this Act is because of the fear that impartial trials cannot be had. Is this allegation a sufficient ground for increasing the facilities for change of venue? Is this the difficulty which has to be added to that of complex procedure? The right hon. and learned Gentleman has stated that on a previous stage of this Bill he dwelt more fully on this matter. I regret that I had not the opportunity of hearing what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, for what he says is generally worth hearing; but I venture to say that if he did not, in reply to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Sir Charles Russell), put forward any more reasons than those he has briefly mentioned to-day, I do not think he could have made out any ground for the introduction in this Bill of a change of venue. Our case is a simple one. The Government admit that under the existing law they have the power to change the venue—that is the case now made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He has not pointed out a single difficulty that exists in the free exercise of this power beyond this one difficulty, which he describes as complex procedure, but which I should describe as a series of obstacles most properly thrown in the way of this change of venue by the Courts of Law, in the discharge of their duty of protecting the liberty of the subject and of seeing that this extreme and extraordinary power is not used to oppress people by changing the venue from their own part of the country and cutting them off from their resources and from their districts, taking them to be tried by persons who are strangers to them in every point of view, differing from them in language, in religion, almost in nationality, and alien to them in thought and sympathy. I say the right hon. and learned Gentleman has failed to make out a case for this clause. He has failed to show that there is any ground for strengthening the present law. He has failed to show that the present law is defective, and on that ground I do not think the Government are justified in wantonly hampering and overloading the Bill with this provision.
§ MR. HOLMES
You must have some power of changing venue, and I only repeat to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. 1394 Healy) that unless an alteration is made in the law, it will, in practice, be impossible to obtain such a change in venue in many criminal cases where it may be desirable to exercise it. I regret that I am not able to answer questions put to me as clearly and as satisfactorily as the hon. Member (Mr. M. Healy) desires. So far as this point is concerned, however, it is admitted that we are not now to discuss the policy of the clause on the Amendment proposed. I would submit, therefore, that it will be to the interest of all parties for us to go to the consideration of some Amendment upon which there can be something like a profitable discussion.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman need debase himself by saying that he is not able to give as clear and satisfactory answers as might be desired. For my own part, I think the answers we receive from him compare most favourably with the replies we receive from his right hon. Colleague, for he, at any rate, is always able to confine himself closely to the point, which other Ministers, as we have seen to-day, are unable to do. Why, Sir, do we raise this point which is now under discussion? It is a substantial point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that no change of venue in a serious criminal case has ever been had; but he seems to forget that an Emergency man can get the change of venue with the greatest facility. The absurdity of the thing is that although Emergency men are able to obtain a change of venue when they desire it, we are not able to do so. Why should we not have the same privilege? I agree that it would not be reasonable to prolong this discussion; but, at the same time, it is necessary to point out that on no subsequent Amendment can the Committee discuss the particular point now raised. We have now had an answer from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He always does manage to give us some answer, but from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary we get no answers at all—we hear from him nothing but verbiage. I would suggest that the Amendment should be withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I withdraw the Amendment; but, at the same time, I must say that I do not consider that the right hon. and learned Gentleman 1395 has given me a satisfactory answer at all.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I beg, Sir, to move, is page 3, line 19, to amend the clause, by inserting, alter "where," the words "after the passing of this Act." This Amendment comes, I think, with great force now that the Government have got the power to obtain special juries. In all the cases mentioned in the 4th section you can have a special jury, and you can send men for trial and have a choice of venue—in conspiracy cases, for instance, you can send men for trial to the County of Dublin. You can try men for conspiracy wherever any part of the conspiracy is supposed to have taken place, where, in fact, the least act of conspiracy is said to have taken place. In that particular case they have, I will venture to say, power to obtain that which, from their point of view, will be about the best special jury possible to select anywhere. I cannot even except the North of Ireland, for I think it would be difficult to get 12 men in that part of the country to combine in favour of anything that would injure the tenant right in their district. I do not think you could get them. But I will not occupy more time in moving the Amendment than what is necessary to enable me to call attention to this—that in all cases mentioned here which have already occurred where indictments have been granted, or the prisoners have been committed for trial, the Crown has deliberately chosen to put the venue in a particular place, and take the trial before common jurors. A section has been passed which enables them to change common jurors for special jurors. I think it a fair thing to say that the retrospective action of the clause should be limited in extent. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland yesterday, in reply to a similar Motion, asked whether it was proposed that there was to be immunity for all offences committed before the passing of this Act. Nothing of the sort, Sir. The Government have a most tremendous machinery under the 3rd section for punishing everything of that kind, and in the 2nd clause they have a radical change in the method of trying the offences. I put it to every Member of the Committee whether the change made by 1396 the 2nd section, affecting trial by Stipendiary Magistrates, with limited power of punishment, is not a much less serious change in the procedure in the trial of a prisoner than while continuing the punishments that the Common Law metes out to particular offences, unmitigated in the slightest degree, to put a man on trial under a change of venue? The argument upon which a retrospective policy was condemned in regard to the 2nd clause applies with much greater force when we come to speak of change of venue.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 19, after ''where," insert "after the passing of this Act."—(Mr. O'Doherty.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
One of the main principles which has guided Her Majesty's Government in the preparation of this Bill has been the conviction that, for some time past, it has been impossible in certain parts of Ireland to get a fair trial. We may be right or we may be wrong in that opinion, but we have constantly maintained it; we advanced the argument on the first and second reading, the argument has been replied to, and the House has decided that our view must prevail. Assuming that we are right, and that for some time past it has been impossible to obtain fair trials in Ireland, it would be manifestly foolish and absurd on our part, having regard to the general character of the Bill, if we were to pass a provision to prevent the application of this clause—by which we hope to give fair trial—to the case of a crime committed to-morrow, or next week, or the week or the day before the Act comes into operation, and prevent the application of what we consider a fair trial to such crime. If there is any basis at all for the contention of the Government, you should not exclude from the operation of this Bill offences which we maintain are now going unpunished by reason of this difficulty of obtaining a fair trial. We ought to be able to avail ourselves of this clause in prosecuting any unpunished offenders for crimes recently committed, or persons who may commit crimes before the Bill becomes law.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
The general policy adopted in passing 1397 Bills in this House has always been not to make them retrospective. When you do make measures retrospective, it is desirable that you should have sufficient grounds for so doing. Assuming that the case the right hon. and learned Gentleman refers to were made out; assuming—-which we do not admit—that the contention of the Government that it has been impossible to obtain fair trials in the past is well-founded, and that convictions have not been obtained where they ought to have been obtained, is it, I ask, advisable to make your Bill not a Bill for the prevention of crime, but one of vengeance? Is it advisable, I ask, to let a measure of this kind have about it a great deal of the spirit of revenge? In the answers given from the Front Bench opposite, in the course of the last week or two, we have heard that crime is diminishing in Ireland. The Government take glory for that as if it were their doing. They admit that crime is diminishing in Ireland. The object of all criminal measures is to prevent crime—the object of this Criminal Bill is to prevent crime—but if crime is diminishing in Ireland, that is still another reason why you should not make the measure, retrospective. It is lowering the character of the Bill to make it retrospective. I put it on the ground of public policy—if you want to prevent crime, let the past be past. You will find that course of action of much greater assistance to you than that you propose. To deal with retrospective crime you ought to be satisfied with the existing procedure, instead of raking up the past after this Bill becomes law. It is because I think it bad policy to make this Bill retrospective, and not because I want to protect anyone who may deserve punishment, that I support this Amendment. I strongly maintain that it is extremely bad policy, wherever it can be avoided, to allow a Bill to deal with what has already happened.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland says it is impossible to have a fair trial in some parts of Ireland. I deny the accuracy of that statement; but even if it were a good reason, why does he—when his case is that it is impossible to obtain convictions in certain parts of Ireland, and in certain parts only—make this clause apply retrospectively to the whole of Ireland? Obviously 1398 the course he is taking is inconsistent. Some months ago the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his Colleague attempted to get a conviction against my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) and others for advocating the Plan of Campaign; and having failed in that conviction, although a jury of the County of Dublin was employed, and although care was taken that none but men of considerable substance got upon the jury, the right hon. and learned Gentleman now desires, under this clause, to have the power to send such a case, say, to the County of Antrim. I know the sort of jury you would get in the County of Antrim very well. Speaking to someone very well acquainted with the feeling in that county some time ago, I was assured that if we were taken to the County of Antrim for trial the jurors of that county would only be too anxious to hang us, whether they had evidence against us or not. Those are the sort of people to whose tender mercies the right hon. and learned Gentleman desires to have power to send Nationalist prisoners to for trial. I think the statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman is inconsistent with the wording of this clause. The clause says—Where an indictment for a crime committed in a proclaimed district has been found against a defendant.If the only cases in which a change of venue is to take place are cases where crime has been committed in a proclaimed district, it is evident that you cannot properly give a retrospective action to this clause. I respectfully submit that crime committed in a proclaimed district is not crime committed in a district that is not now proclaimed. If that is so, it would seem as if this Amendment is not necessary at all. But in the discussion of the 1st and 2nd clauses we found that the words "committed in a proclaimed district" meant committed in a district that might afterwards be proclaimed. That interpretation seemed to me an abuse of the English language, and if the point were to be raised in an English Court of Law I have not the slightest doubt that that would be the view taken by the Judge. We should not trouble ourselves about it, because we should know that the monstrous construction put upon the words by the Treasury Bench would 1399 not be confirmed by the Court. But there is a great difference between Courts of Law in England and Ireland. There is a familiar likeness between the Courts of Law, and the individuals presiding in them, in Ireland now and those you had in England some 300 years ago. I have not the slightest doubt that in the Irish. Courts the precise reading of this clause which we hear on the Treasury Bench will be held. It is that which has rendered it necessary to move this Amendment. The Amendment would have been perfectly unnecessary but for the lead given by the Treasury Bench to those who will have to administer this Act. I think this Amendment should be inserted in the Bill to show that the measure must be administered in Ireland as it would be in England or in any other civilized community.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The analysis of crime in Ireland for the past sis months shows that the number of cases to which this clause could be applied must be exceedingly small. The number of prisoners at the Winter Assizes would have conferred on the Government a power practically analogous to that sought for in this section. It would have enabled them to take criminals from Munster to Cork, from Leinster to Dublin, and from Ulster to Belfast. Under that arrangement, the Government once a-year are enabled to change the venue of trials, and therefore we have practically a clear slate up to the last Winter Assizes in December last, and we are only concerned with offences committed since the last Winter Assizes, and these, owing to the almost complete absence of crime in Ireland, are few in number. The question of this clause being retrospective, therefore, is not of importance in regard to the number of cases that are likely to come under it; but the principle involved is a very serious matter, because, as my hon. Friend has said, it practically reverses the whole of the policy of previous legislation, which has been to make Acts of Parliament apply to cases arising after those Acts were passed, and not to anything of a retrospective character. Of course, the argument of the Government in reply to that is that this is a mere matter of procedure; that they create no new offences; and that it would be absurd to except from the operation of the improved procedure any offences, 1400 whether committed before the passing of the Act or not, and to prevent this improved procedure from being availed of for the purpose of bringing criminals to justice. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has very properly put the case of a crime that might be committed the week or even the very day before the passing of the Act. He says it would be absurd to rely on the old broken-down judiciary in Ireland for the prosecution of a person for such a crime; but that is not a fair argument; because, in the case of a crime committed just before the passing of the Act, they would not have to rely on the old broken-down judiciary. They have got, under Clause 3 of this Act, a most important qualification of the old machinery. They have got the power of empannelling a special jury in any particular case, and the Committee has already refused to declare that that power shall be restricted to offences committed subsequent to the passing of the Act. It is absurd to say, therefore, that in agreeing to this Amendment the Government would be relinquishing the power of punishing offences committed before the passing of the Act, or that in dealing with those offences they would be compelled to fall back upon the old procedure. I think that is a complete answer to the right hon. and learned Gentleman upon that point. I think we are entitled to an answer from the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the point raised by my hon. and learned Friend. I think we ought to know whether it is intended to deal retrospectively with such cases as that in which my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) was concerned. One of the last of the cases which may occur prior to the passing of this Act is that of my hon. Friend, and unless this Amendment is accepted that case would unquestionably come within the powers granted by this clause. We want an answer from the Irish Government upon this point. Do they mean to use the powers of this clause to obtain against my hon. Friend a conviction which, they were unable to obtain under the old law? They have announced that their policy will be to administer the Act so as to punish offences committed before the passing of the Act, and they would be within the lines of that policy if they proclaimed 1401 the County or the City of Dublin, and tried my hon. Friend under this clause. They would be within their rights in doing that; but I think all would agree with me that a fouler use of a judicial process could not be devised than to use the machinery placed in their hands by this clause in such a way. I do not think any fair-minded man will venture to suggest for a moment that such a use of this power of changing the venue would be a fair, or proper, or reasonable exercise of that power. That being so, I do think that my hon. Friend is quite justified in asking the Government to give us some declaration of their intention upon that point. Do they mean to so misuse and to abuse this power of changing the venue as to apply it to such a case as that of my hon. Friend the Member for East Mayo? Do they mean to attempt, by hook or by crook, whether by this power of changing the venue or not, to obtain the conviction they were not able to obtain under the old law? Do they mean to send my hon. Friend down to Belfast, or to Down, or to send him off elsewhere, for trial before a special jury? I do think this is a most important point. From one point of view I say the Amendment is not of vital importance, because the number of cases it would affect are limited; but as regards this course of action generally it is of vital importance, and as regards the operation, of the clause upon my hon. Friend it may be of vital importance. I do think we are entitled to some declaration from the Government as regards the class of case to which I have referred. We are entitled to know whether they do or do not intend to use this power against my hon. Friend.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
Before we go to a Division upon this Amendment, I wish to point out that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) would give some answer on the point now raised he would probably save a discussion on the next Amendment. I rather intended to deal with that point on that Amendment. With your permission. Sir, I would say that if the words ''after the passing of this Act" are inserted after the word "found," the two Amendments will be covered. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not fairly interpret what I put forward. He 1402 spoke of our wishing to give immunity to those offences committed between the passing of this Act and a week or a day prior to it. I spoke of treating offences under this clause so far back as the finding of a true bill by the Grand Jury, and I should not put such cases in the category of offences committed up to within a short period of the passing of the Act. I referred to cases where the Crown had taken proceedings, had gone to the Grand Jury, framed an indictment, and had, perhaps, failed before the petty jury. I mentioned that the Crown had a special jury to go to. The right hon. and learned Gentleman deals with the matter as though we want to prevent all retrospective action whatever under this clause. I only dealt with two particular cases. The action the Government can take now in respect of crimes committed before the passing of the Act will still be open to them. I only object to their taking action under this clause in regard to oases which they could deal with now, but which they will not deal with—in reference to which they are refraining from taking action until they have this Bill. I know they are waiting for this measure in some cases. I wish to save only cases in which the Crown have already taken proceedings; but in no way would the proposal save a man who has committed an offence between this and the passing of the Act.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 128; Noes 214: Majority 86.—(Div. List, No. 200.) [4.10. P.M.]
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I wish now to move an Amendment, in line 19, after "where," to leave out to "or," in line 20, inclusive. My wish is to compel the prosecution to make a motion for it before they are allowed a change of venue. I contend that they should be required to make their motion to change the venue before they have gone to the Grand Jury and had an indictment found, even in the future. That, I think, is an altered aspect of the case. I admit that we have disposed of the question as to whether or not the clause is to be retrospective. It is to be retrospective; but I say that the Crown should be compelled to give justice to a defendant. If they want to change the 1403 venue, they should move for an order for such change before they take a man before the Grand Jury. They have no right to double the expense of the defendant, who may have prepared, and in all probability "will have prepared, to meet his accusers in one place, and will have in the end to go to another place to be tried. Why should the Crown be allowed to obtain a change of venue after they have taken a prisoner before the Grand Jury? It seems to me it would involve great hardship if they are to be allowed, to send a prisoner up for trial in one place, and then, when the trial has really been entered on there, send him elsewhere, after an application to the Court of Queen's Bench to change the venue.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 19, after the word "where," to leave out to the word "or," in line 20, inclusive.—(Mr. O'Doherty.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
So far as I can understand from the hon. Member, he says he moves the Amendment on the ground that if an indictment is found against a man, and after that the venue is changed, the prisoner will be put to a considerable amount of expense. In reply to the hon. Member, I would remind him that there is a clause in the Bill which provides for the payment of expenses. The costs that would be incurred by reason of the change of venue would be paid under that clause. The provision is similar to one in the Act of 1882.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland a question upon this Amendment. I should like to know what opportunity will be allowed to a prisoner to appeal to the Court against a proposed change of venue from the town where he has made his arrangements to conduct his defence, and what time will be allowed him?
§ MR. HOLMES
It will be observed that it is provided in a subsequent part of the Bill that after an order is made to change the venue an application can be made to the Court within a prescribed period asking it to alter the decision.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
There is nothing in the first paragraph of the clause to describe the procedure. If there were, I should say the answer the right hon. and learned Gentleman has given is a good one. We think that cases of the kind which have been already described may arise. The right hon. and learned Gentleman may say that the decision on the last Amendment disposed of the question of the retrospective action of the clause, but take this case—a man is charged with murder, an investigation takes place before the magistrates and he is returned for trial. In the general run of cases there is a considerable interval between the time a man is returned for trial and the time an indictment is found. Is it not a monstrous thing that the Government—the Executive—having along interval of that kind at their disposal, should deliberately wait until an indictment is found, and make their application for a change of venue at the last moment? The result of that would be to put a man to unnecessary expense, and possibly to prevent his getting those he knows and trusts in his own locality to defend him. A change of venue at the last moment might dislocate all his plans and preparations. That being so, are we not reasonable in asking that the Crown should not be allowed to wait until the last moment before making the application for change of venue? Are we not reasonable in asking that in, some form or other, some check shall be put on the Crown? If they make up their minds to put this clause in operation, should it not be done at some fixed time before the trial begins? I do not think anything more reasonable than that could be proposed, and I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has given a satisfactory answer to the point. Can any practical difficulty arise owing to giving a prisoner due notice of change of venue? I do not think so, but it seems to me that great difficulty may result from the defective manner in which this clause has been drafted. I do not see that there is anything in the clause which would prevent a Judge sitting under Her Majesty's Commission at Assizes from saying if he chooses I will go on with the trial. There is nothing in the section which will prevent a trial being delayed until a prisoner has had an opportunity of taking the 1405 decision of the Court as to whether the order for change of venue is right or not. Would it not be reasonable to insert in the clause some express Proviso that pending the trial of this motion—pending the hearing of this application for change of venue—the trial should not proceed? The right hon. and learned Gentleman may say it is absurd to suppose that any Judge would think of going on with a trial while a motion of that kind is pending; but strange things sometimes happen in Ireland, and for myself I have not complete confidence in what Irish Judges would do. At any rate, I desire that precautions should be taken against the discretion of the Judges. There should be some express Proviso preventing any miscarriage of justice inserted in the clause itself. We say that there is reason to think that if the Crown Counsel elected to make a change of venue, even on the morning of the trial, he would be able to do so. There is a final point which I wish to mention as regards the inconvenience that would result from the change of venue. What is there to protect the prisoner from the trial taking place at an unreasonable time after the venue has been changed? There is not a word in the clause to provide that any interval should elapse between the time when the change of venue is ordered and the time when the trial commences. We do ask that the prisoner should be protected in this respect. Some Proviso should be introduced to the effect that a reasonable interval should elapse between the order for the change of venue and the time at which the trial is to take place. The cases which the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has referred to do not bear on this point. I think we ought to have some more satisfactory reply from the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has made a mistake in what he said with reference to the costs. I have looked through the 16th clause, and I think that, whilst it clearly provides for the expenses of the second trial, it in no way makes provision for the expenses incurred by the change of venue. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has admitted that these expenses ought to be provided 1406 for, but has said that they are provided for. Now, I point out to him that the expenses already incurred are not provided for. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will consent to make it perfectly clear that they will be provided for, I will withdraw not only this Amendment, but my other Amendments down to No. 6.
§ MR. HOLMES
What the Crown undertakes to pay is the additional cost incurred in consequence of the change of venue. They could not undertake to pay all costs, but only the additional costs that arise by reason of the change of venue. If we were to pay the costs of what have been called the abortive proceedings, we should be going further than we could be expected to go.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I beg to move the next Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy)—namely, in page 3, line 19, to leave out "a crime," and insert—Murder or manslaughter, attempt to murder, aggravated crime or violence against a person, arson, by statute or Common Law, or firing at or into a dwelling house.This is an Amendment which follows the precedent of that moved yesterday on the previous clause, and it limits the classification to which this change of venue shall apply to a particular class of offences. Whatever ground the Government could urge for refusing to assent to such a proposal in respect of Clause 3, I think it would be very difficult to urge any reason which would be accepted by the Committee for refusing to agree to it now, because it simply applies to Sub-clause 1 of this section a definition which the Government have themselves declared to be proper and reasonable in the case of Sub-clause 2. The Government, in drawing Sub-clause 2, have expressed their view that the power to change the venue from Ireland to England should not apply, except in the particular classification described by the Amendment. Now, that being so, what possible reason can they urge for refusing to limit Sub-clause 1 to the same class of offences? I really think, Sir, that there will be some difficulty in replying to this argument. I could very well understand the Government to argue 1407 that in regard to both Sub-clause 1 and Sub-clause 2 the number of offences would be somewhat extended. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) suggested one offence yesterday which might, perhaps, be reasonably included in both sub-sections—namely, blowing up with dynamite. But we are not at present discussing whether a particular offence shall or shall not be included in the category, but whether it shall be limited to a particular class of offence. Now, if you admit that Sub-section 2 must be limited to a particular class of offence I think it follows that Subsection 1 must also be so limited. No reason exists why you should extend the provisions of Sub-clause 1 one jot or tittle beyond the limits of Sub-clause 2. That is the reason why I press this Amendment. I have only to say in addition that I think the Government have acted very wisely in limiting Sub-clause 2 in the manner they have done. As I understand it, they have limited the sub-section to crimes of what I may describe as a non-political character, crimes that violate the moral law, and which shock persons, no matter what their political views may be. They have declared that it is a proper thing to limit Sub-clause 2 in this way, and that it is not reasonable or expedient that political offenders should be tried by being transferred from Ireland to England. If that be so, surely it is also reasonable and expedient that political offenders should not- be transferred from one part of Ireland to another. It is not an improper thing to ask that the Government should not take powers to try political prisoners in Belfast, for instance. That would be a far more dangerous and improper venue than an English one. The principle on which the Government, as I understand, have proceeded in regard to Sub-clause 2 ought to be applied also to Sub-clause 1.
In page 3, line 19, to leave out the words "a crime," and insert the words "murder or manslaughter, attempt to murder, aggravated crime or violence against a person, arson, by statute or Common Law, or firing at or into a dwelling house."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'a crime' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
1408 I think I might almost appeal to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway as to whether it is necessary to repeat the discussion on this Amendment. The arguments brought forward in support of it yesterday are almost the same as those which could be used in its favour to-day. However, I will answer what the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) has said. The reason for limiting what he calls Sub-clause 2 really does not apply to Sub-clause 1. That which has been pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) is really an exceptional matter. The change of venue from one county to another, both in England and Ireland, when it has been applied under the old procedure, has been applied to all indictable offences, and it is not necessary to alter that practice now.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
We are always ready to accept, if it be possible to do so, any suggestion from the Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster), because he always states a case fairly; but we do feel it necessary to press this Amendment. I cannot conceive why the Government should decline to limit this particular sub-section to the same offences as those to which they limit Sub-section 2. I think I might appeal to the common sense of any Member of the Committee to say that the Old Bailey in London would be a far more impartial tribunal than a jury headed by Justice Lawson or Justice O'Brien. An English Court would probably be presided over by a Judge like Justice Stephen; and I would draw attention to the fact that when an Irishman, who was tried before Justice Stephen for a dynamite offence, and who was sentenced to 20 years' penal servitude, was asked whether he had anything to say as to why sentence should not be pronounced, he said he had to thank the Judge for the fair and impartial trial which had been accorded to him. I do not think that any such episode ever occurred in an Irish Court, and I do not think that any prisoner in Ireland could, with any sense of decency or fitness, thank an Irish Judge for the protection accorded to him. I would also remind the Committee of the feeling which exists in the North of Ireland. Prejudice has been created against us in the English Metropolis by the 1409 libels which have been circulated by the London Press. But judging from the conversations one hears in railway carriages, and so on, the people of London would be looked upon by us as angels compared with those in the North of Ireland. If, therefore, it is necessary to exclude from the constituents of the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) in London the trial of certain offences, it would be necessary to exclude them also from jurors in the North of Ireland. This becomes doubly necessary when you have trials by jurors who would really be grand jurors. The position is this—you are sending to the jury men who, in addition to being landlords, are bitter anti-Nationalists, and whose every verdict may put money into their own pockets. I cannot see how the Government, having applied this limitation to Sub-section 2, can now refuse to apply it to the 1st sub-section.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 231; Noes 130: Majority 101.—(Div. List, No. 201.)[4.45 P.M.]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
, in moving as an Amendment, in page 3, line 20, to leave out the words "or a defendant has been committed for trial for such crime," said, that he thought it was only reasonable that an indictment should be found against a defendant in the locality where the crime was said to have been committed before there was a change of venue. It seemed to him that defendants were at least entitled to that protection, and he hoped therefore that the Government would accede to the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 20, to leave out the words "or a defendant has been committed for trial for such crime."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I agree that an indictment may, in some cases, be found before there is a change of venue; but the adoption of this Amendment would necessitate the finding of an indictment in all cases in the county where the offence was committed, and to that I could not consent.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The observations of the right hon. and learned Gentleman would apply equally to cases where the change of venue is from Ireland to England, as to cases where the change of venue is from one county in Ireland to another. I must say I think that if men are to be brought for trial from Ireland to England, the least guarantee we can have for the fairness of such a proceeding is, that the indictment should be first found by an Irish Grand Jury. I would ask the Government whether they intend, in the case of English trials, that Grand Juries shall find the bills in Ireland?
§ No reply being given to the question,
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
, in moving as an Amendment in page 3, line 22, after "Assize," to insert "other than a Winter Assize," said: The Government have already the power to change the venue, for the purposes of the Winter Assizes, to any town in the same province wherein the crime was committed. In the exercise of that power they have, for the convenience of the counsel engaged in the cases, brought unfortunate people, together with the witnesses to be called on these trials, from Waterford to Dublin, a distance of 200 miles. Having got this extraordinary power to change the venue at the Winter Assizes, what more do you want? You can hold the Winter Assizes in any county of a province that you please; and, being able to do that already, it seems quite unnecessary, even for your own purposes, to take the additional power which this clause would confer upon the Government.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 22, after the word "Assize," to insert the words "other than a Winter Assize."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
The power proposed to be conferred upon the Government by this clause as it now stands is necessary, because it might happen that the town fixed upon for holding the Winter Assizes is peculiarly unsuitable for the trial of a particular case. Belfast, for in- 1411 stance, might be the town for the Winter Assize; and not only has the hon. and learned Gentleman himself said that particular cases should not be allowed to remain for trial in Belfast; but I, myself, have said that if I had had the power to prevent it, I would not have allowed a particular case to have been tried in Belfast. The same thing may be said as to the trial of particular cases in the county of Tyrone and other counties. As there may thus be cases in which it is not desirable that trials should take place at the Winter Assize town appointed for a province I must resist the Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
There are two ways in which the difficulty raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman may be met. One is not to make Belfast a Winter Assize town, and the other is that if you do make it a Winter Assize town, and it is undesirable to try a particular case there, you should then postpone the trial of that case to the ordinary gaol delivery in the spring. Or you might before December obtain an order for a change of venue from the Queen's Bench Division, and then you will not be troubled by the provisions of the law with respect to the Winter Assizes and gaol delivery. I would submit with confidence to any Tory Member opposite that if you group the five counties of a particular province into one county for the purposes of a Winter Assize, that gives you all the change of venue you want. I ask, therefore, why is this further provision for a change of venue wanted? The reply is, that there may be some cases which might not be properly triable in a particular county. To that I answer—'"Why, then, try them in that county? "
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The very case to which the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland has referred is in direct contravention of his argument against this Amendment. He evidently alluded to the case of the Walkers, when he said that if it had been in his power he would not have had them tried at Belfast. But they were, in fact, tried at Armagh, and not at Belfast. Moreover, they were tried at the Spring Assizes, and it was because they were tried at the Spring, and not at the Winter Assizes that there was not the power to change the venue. Now, what does the right hon. and 1412 learned Gentleman mean? He means this—that the Government contemplate a state of things arising in Ireland under which such will be the state of turmoil and excitement—that in a whole province there will not be a single spot where it will be safe to try a prisoner. That is what the argument of the Government comes to. Therefore, it amounts to this—that the Government have so little confidence, even in their special jury system and their right of unlimited "stand-bye," that they now declare they anticipate a state of things will arise in Ireland under which they cannot rely on being able to try prisoners in any county of the province in which the offence is said to have been committed. Instead of limiting their Bill to what, from their point of view, may be its legitimate objects, they are, in fact, seeking to extend it to all cases.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 120; Noes 230: Majority 110.—(Div. List, No. 202.) [5.10 P.M.]
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
, in moving as an Amendment, in page 3, line 23, after "county" to leave out the words "or borough," said, the clause as it stands is without meaning; it is even nonsensical. In the boroughs of Ireland there never has arisen the smallest necessity for a change of venue. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite will, I am sure, bear me out in this—that from time out of mind, whatever may have been the state of things in the counties of Ireland, there has always been the greatest peace and quietness in the boroughs. In a great number of cases during recent years the Judges in boroughs have been presented with white gloves, in consequence of there being no prisoners for them to try. I am sure that if we had a list of the instances in which this has occurred the Committee would be astonished at the small amount of crime or disorder which has existed in these boroughs. That being so, and such being the state of things existing in the case of the Irish boroughs, what is the necessity for branding these places, which are always so free from crime, with this disgraceful imputation—that the Crown cannot trust their juries to do justice in criminal cases. Or, why should the Government say that they find it necessary 1413 to have a change of venue in order to get a fair trial? The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland will not deny the facts I have stated; nor will he contest this further fact, that the Executive Government of Ireland have such a high opinion of, and so much confidence in, the jurors of Irish boroughs, that they always resort to those boroughs when they want to got an impartial trial. It is one of the constant complaints of the jurors of the City of Cork, that while the Winter Assizes Act enables the Government to fix trials where they choose, they have invariably selected the jurors of the City of Cork for discharging the functions of jurors for the whole province of Munster. They have, in fact, transferred to the jurors of Cork the criminal work of the whole of Munster at the Winter Assizes. That being the opinion which the Government entertain of these jurors, why should a slur be cast on them by saying that the Government think it necessary to ask Parliament for power to remove trials from boroughs. I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman will have great difficulty in defending this provision, or in showing that there is any reason for extending to boroughs the provisions which are applicable to counties. I must say, however, that I have placed this Amendment on the Paper without any great anticipation of its being agreed to; for the attitude which the Government have assumed seems to render it very improbable that they will assent to any Amendment proposed from this quarter of the Committee. But, as the Representative of an important Irish Borough, I did not think it right to let the occasion pass without protesting against the imputation cast on the boroughs of Ireland.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 3, line 23,to leave out the words, "or Borough."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'or Borough' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I admit that what the hon. Member has said about the jurors in boroughs is generally true. He has said that in his experience he has never known of any necessity arising for a change of venue from boroughs. But I 1414 can tell him of a case within the last 10 months in which it was desirable to have a change of venue from a borough. I allude to the case of the Borough of Belfast. There was extreme excitement there within the period I have named; and I was told by the Crown Solicitor that it was impossible to get convictions in certain cases. I should have been very glad if the power to change the venue given by this clause had then existed, and could then have been used with reference to the borough of Belfast. Under these circumstances, I cannot assent to the Amendment; but must adhere to the present provisions of the Bill.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY
I maintain that there is no necessity for this provision. In the case of Quarter Sessions, it is always in the power of the Crown to say—''We won't prosecute at Quarter Sessions. We will have the case sent to the Assizes;" and when this is done, the County Court Judge always sends the case to the Assizes. But, if he were to refuse to accede to the application of the Crown Solicitor, the Attorney General can enter a nolle prosequi, have the case reheard, and have it sent either to the Winter or other Assizes. The case cited by the Attorney General for Ireland as an argument against me is an argument in my favour, if he thinks that a Borough Court of Quarter Sessions is not a proper tribunal for the trial of any case, let him give directions to his subordinates that such a case should be sent to the Assizes, and tried there.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Aves 215; Noes 111: Majority 104.—(Div. List, No. 203.) [5.30 P.M.]
§ It being a quarter of an hour before Six of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to report Progress; Committee to sit again To-morrow.