§ SIR JOHN SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
asked the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Whether, in the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown, the Coroner's warrant lately issued by Mr. Coroner Rice to commit Constable Bulmer, of Royal Irish Constabulary, is legal or illegal?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I am informed that the attention of the Coroner having been drawn to the irregularities in the warrant, an amended warrant, winch was duly executed, was substituted by him. There seems, therefore, to be no necessity for taking the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown on a matter which is now of no practical importance.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to intimate that the constable in this matter was committed to gaol?
§ [No reply.]
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that 1338 the alleged irregularity consisted of printed words forming part of the usual formality of the warrant being allowed to remain on the face of the document; and that when the Coroner's attention was called to the matter he simply drew his pen across the printed words, and not across anything that had been written?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The fact that the Coroner issued a now warrant appears to indicate that, in his opinion, the old warrant was irregular.
§ Several Irish MEMBERS: He did not issue a new warrant.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I wish to ask the Attorney General for Ireland, whether we are to under-stand that if a policeman is of opinion that a warrant is irregular he has a right to refuse to execute it for a week, and to take that time to inquire whether the warrant is irregular or not? For future guidance it is desirable that we should know.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
By a regulation that was given to the police long before the present Government came into Office, the District Inspectors were directed not to execute a warrant they had reason to believe was irregular. When such a warrant is issued they are expected to call the attention of the persons issuing it to the irregularity. In pursuance of that order the District Inspector, seeing certain matters in this warrant which were not in accordance with the fact, sought for the Coroner, in order to call his attention to it. But the Coroner was unable to be found until the next sitting of the Court, when the District Inspector called the attention of the Coroner to the irregularity, which was then corrected, and a now warrant issued. The first person to be consulted in such a case was the person issuing the warrant; and this was necessary not only for the protection of the Constabulary, but also for the protection of the Magistrate or Coroner who issued it.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what the alleged irregularities were?
§ MR. HOLMES
I can do so. It was stated upon the face of the warrant that the grounds on which it was issued 1339 were, first of all, that it was sworn in open Court that a summons had been served on the constable; and, secondly, that he had declined to attend. As a matter of fact it was not sworn in open Court that the summons had been served; and, in the second place, the constable had attended. The contempt was a refusal to answer a particular question. These were the matters to which the District Inspector desired to call the attention of the Coroner. This course was perfectly reasonable, and the Coroner agreed to issue a new warrant.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
May I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether these two informalities were not on the printed form of the warrant; and, whether the error was that the real cause of the order of committal was not filled in the ordinary warrant?
§ MR. HOLMES
I cannot say what was printed on the warrant; but everyone knows that a warrant must be irregular if it does not state the reason for which it was issued. In reference to the other Question, I am informed that the District Inspector on the very earliest opportunity went to look for the Coroner, but did not find him.