HC Deb 10 March 1887 vol 311 cc1750-2
COLONEL KING-HARMAN (Kent, Isle of Thanet)

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether his attention has been drawn to the following reports of proceedings at recent Assizes in Ireland:— Times, Thursday, 3rd March, 1887. Limerick, 2nd March. At the Clare Assizes in a charge of assault, before a petty jury, a verdict of 'Not Guilty' was returned, although the evidence clearly pointed to the guilt of the accused, and there was virtually no defence. Mr. Justice O'Brien, addressing Mr. Murphy, Crown Solicitor, asked him to consider what course he would adopt in reference to any criminal cases remaining for trial at the Assizes. At the sitting of the Court this morning Mr. Murphy said that he had determined on not proceeding with the trial of John Dwyer, charged with shooting at a police constable. The case was accordingly postponed to next Assizes, the accused being allowed out on bail; Times, Wednesday, 9th March, 1887. Limerick, 8th March. At the Limerick Assizes to-day, before Mr. Justice Johnson, presiding in the County Criminal Court, Edward O'Grady and four other men were indicted for riotous assembly and assaulting the Sheriff's bailiffs on the occasion of the eviction for non-payment of rent of the first-named prisoner at Mount Minnett, near Cahirconlish, on 18th January last. Every precaution was taken by the counsel representing the Crown to insure the case having a fair trial, and a large number of jurors were ordered to "stand by." The case at length proceeded, and evidence was given showing that at the eviction O'Grady fortified his house, cut away the staircase, and offered a desperate resistance, two bailiffs being flung off a ladder, by means of which they attempted to get into the upper portion of the premises. Dirty water, the viscera of dead dogs, and other refuse were flung out on the bailiffs, and a staff was taken from a policeman by O'Grady. The prisoners were all identified by one or other of the witnesses produced by the Crown. There were no witnesses examined for the defence. The jury refused to act on the evidence offered for the Crown, and acquitted all the prisoners; In the case where three men were charged with riotous assembly and assaulting District Inspector Greene, at Herbertstown, the jury likewise acquitted the prisoners, although it was sworn that a crowd of some 400 people collected in the village and pelted the police with stones and mud. No witnesses were called for the defence; whether the jurors in each case were chiefly composed of members of the so-called National League; and, whether he will direct the Irish Law Officers to order a postponement of all cases of agrarian outrages, intimidation, assaults upon the Constabulary, arson, or attacks on life or property, in the counties of Clare and Limerick, until the Government can obtain from Parliament powers for changing the venue, so that the accused may be tried in some district where the influence of the National League will not be paramount?

MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, as a matter of Order, whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to make a Question in this House the vehicle of such an assumption as is expressed in the last few lines of the Question?


I think the hon. Gentleman will see that this is but a repetition of a Question that was asked by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast. I did not think it necessary to interfere in that case, and I do not think it necessary to interfere now.


I am the Member for West Belfast, and I never put such a Question.


I beg the hon. Member's pardon—I meant the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy.)

THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

In answer to the Question of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I have to say that I am unable to vouch for the accuracy of the reports referred to; but I am in a position to say that in consequence of the failures of justice at the recent Clare and Limerick Assizes, arising from the refusal of jurors to convict in cases where the evidence was clear and practically uncontradicted, the Crown Solicitors applied that the cases remaining untried should be postponed, and an order to that effect was at once made by the Court.

MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)

I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he was aware that the time allowed for the Clare Assizes was quite insufficient to get through the business there; and whether the postponement of the cases referred to in the Question was not a convenience to the Crown and to the Judges, enabling the latter to open the other Assizes on the circuit at the appointed times, which would otherwise have been impossible; also, whether The Times report of the O'Grady case, at Limerick, is not grossly at variance with the reports in other papers, which show that the writ in the case was not properly endorsed, which the Judge said gave rise to a serious legal question, that he would reserve if the men charged were found guilty.


I am not aware of the facts stated by the hon. Member; the information which I have received does not contain the inference in the Question. I must ask hon. Gentlemen who wish to have satisfactory answers to their Questions to be so good as to put them on the Paper.