§ Clause 1 (Inquiry by order of Attorney General).
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
Mr. Courtney, I desire to move to the 1st clause of this Bill an Amendment, which I hope will not be characterized by any Member of the Government as obstructive, or as an unsubstantial one. The Amendment will make a very grave alteration in the Bill—one which certainly ought to be made. I will admit there may possibly be, on the part of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, some iota of a desire to maintain law and order, or what they consider to be law and order; but it seems to me there are many ways in which that should be done. Unfortunately, we differ from some people as to the method of maintaining law and order. Some people think that will most probably be done by allowing noble Lords to travel about disturbing the districts through which they go; and other gentlemen think it may best be done by circulating, for a pecuniary consideration, enormous numbers of the gross and abominable libels which have been referred to in the House to-night. There is another way in the opinion of some people, and that is the exercise of powers such as those created by this clause. Now, I think it is but reasonable that there should be some precaution provided that the tribunal with such extraordinary powers as are given by this clause, which it is proposed to set up over the Irish people, should be constituted of persons who will have some sort of claim to a character for independence and impartiality. What is it that the Government propose to do by this clause? They propose to give to a certain tribunal very largo powers. They propose that this 763 tribunal should have power to examine any person it likes; to examine that person secretly; to compel that person to criminate himself or herself; and they propose that this tribunal shall have unlimited power to commit to gaol, for any reason the tribunal thinks fit, any person whom it may choose to call before it, whether that person is a material witness or not. Therefore it is that we ought to scrutinize very carefully the constitution of this tribunal. We find it is to be constituted of one Resident Magistrate. Now, I believe there is before the House, though it has not yet been circulated, a statement showing the previous occupation of the Resident Magistrates of Ireland. That statement proves very effectually that the Resident Magistrates are gentlemen who are thoroughly unfit to be trusted with any large judicial powers, or, indeed, with any powers at all. Out of 76 magistrates 58 are half-pay officers, and only 9 lay any claim to legal training. Now, the 6 & 7Will. IV. c. 13, s. 13, shows that the Resident Magistrates of Ireland are perfectly dependent upon the Lord Lieutenant; he appoints them, and has the power to remove them at his will and pleasure. The 10 & 17 Viet. c. 60, s. 2, provides that before one of these gentlemen can secure a superannuation allowance he must obtain a certificate from the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant that he has served him "with diligence and fidelity." My proposition is to substitute for these individuals a permanent Law Officer of the county—the Crown Solicitor or Sessional Crown Prosecutor acting before the County Court Judge—to assimilate the provision of this section to the Scotch law, of which we have heard so much. I propose to leave out the words from "direct," in page 1, line 8, to "and," in line 9, and to insert—The Crown solicitor or sessional Crown prosecutor of the county in which such crime is alleged to have been committed, to summon and examine witnesses before the county court judge of such county touching the commission of such crime.I need hardly point out that under the clause, as it is framed at present, an inquiry will be held before a single Resident Magistrate, at the orders of the Castle; that this gentleman is not only to be prosecutor and examining counsel, but also Judge; that he is to ask questions, and to decide whether the questions 764 are proper or not; and that he is to have full power to send to gaol. In Scotland a permanent Judge is at the head of the Court, and protects the witnesses. We hear a great deal of the tyranny of the French law in the matter of preliminary examination; but, according to the French law, a Judge is appointed every three years to hold preliminary inquiries. This Judge retains his character and status as a permanent Judge of the Civil Tribunal, and when his term of office is at an end he goes back to the Civil Tribunal. He is an independent Judge, and not appointed to hold office at the pleasure of somebody else. He protects the witness from being called upon to criminate himself. And what power has this permanent Judge? It may surprise hon. Gentlemen to know that the only power he has is to commit a witness to gaol for 10 days, or to fine him 100 francs. If hon. Gentlemen have the slightest desire that this Act shall be administered fairly, or shall, in the slightest degree, have any right to command the confidence of the people of Ireland, I imagine they ought to accede to my Amendment. I appeal even to the most rabid Tory to recollect that no good can possibly be served by setting up such an infamous tribunal as that proposed. the people will decline to appear before such a tribunal; they will dare it, and they will be right. If the object of hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench is to detect crime and outrage, that object will be best attained by establishing a tribunal which will have some semblance at least of independence and impartiality. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
In page 1, line 8, to leave out from the word "direct" to the word "and," in line 9, in order to insert the words "the Crown solicitor or sessional Crown prosecutor of the county in which such crime is alleged to have been committed, to summon and examine witnesses before the county court judge of such county touching the commission of such. crime."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'a' stand part of the Clause."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
The proposition that there shall be an inquiry has been confirmed by the Committee in more than one Division, and the question we have now 765 to decide is what tribunal is to carry on the examination. Let me say, in the first instance, that I do not profess to understand the law of Scotland, and that I have not road, and do not care to read, anything about the French law. I prefer to take the analogy of the English law, and preliminary inquiry is a thing very well known to English law. It has existed in England for a considerable period, and there are in this country certain officers who are entrusted with the duty of holding preliminary inquiries. Who are those officers? They are the magistrates. [Mr. CHANCE: With the prisoner charged.] The person who is employed to take depositions as an initial step to a criminal prosecution is the magistrate. It seems to me a most reasonable thing that this duty should be entrusted to the magistrates. In the observations he has made, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chance) has referred to the judicial duties of magistrates. The taking of depositions is not regarded as a judicial duty at all. It has been laid down again and again by the Supreme Courts that that is a magisterial duty as distinguished from a judicial duty. the taking of depositions is one of the ordinary functions of a Justice of the Peace. It is constantly performed by every Justice of the Peace both in England and in Ireland. The duty is far more important than the duty a magistrate is called upon to perform under this Bill, because the depositions now taken may be used in evidence against the prisoner, and, further, they may be used against the very person who is giving evidence. the House having confirmed the proposition that we are to have in certain parts of Ireland the taking of evidence before a person is charged, why not leave the inquiry to the same class of functionaries who have at present the right to take depositions? This section is not being enacted for the first time. It has been enacted on various occasions. In 1870 it was enacted, and then this power was given to any ordinary Justice of the Peace. In 1882 it was enacted, and then power was given, in the very terms we have incorporated in the present clause, to the Resident Magistrates. It was enacted again as part of the permanent law of England in reference to a particular class of crimes, and power was given to any ordinary Justice of the Peace. The 766 hon. Member has said that Resident Magistrates in Ireland are not persons who can be expected to administer this clause in a proper and fair way. Every day Resident Magistrates are performing far more important duties than that proposed to be cast upon them. They are taking depositions which can be used as evidence not merely against the prisoner, but also against the person who makes them. We are not extending in any way the functions of Resident 'Magistrates; and it must be borne in mind that all the present Resident Magistrates have not been selected by a Tory Government at all, but that a large number of them were appointed by the Government of Earl Spencer. Well, now, everyone knows that some of the best magistrates to be found have really had no previous training in the law. As a matter of fact, if you go through the Magistracy of England you find that the greater number of them are men who have made themselves acquainted with magisterial duty by study. That being so, the hon. Gentleman makes the totally novel proposition—a proposition for which no analogy can be found in the Common Law of any country—that the witnesses should be taken before County Court Judges. Now, as a matter of fact, I venture to say that out of all the County Court Judges in Ireland probably there are not five who have ever taken a deposition. It forms no part of their duty now; it never did; and to ask them to enter upon a duty they have never performed while Resident Magistrates would seem to be most unreasonable. Besides, County Court Judges sit at specified periods; they have four Sessions a-year, each of which lasts for a little more than a month. Is it suggested that they should increase the number of their Sessions'? Now, the hon. Member began by saying that he hoped no Member of the Government would suggest that this was an obstructive Amendment. I do not mean to make such a suggestion; but I will take the opportunity of calling hon. Members' attention to this—that although we have had legislation on this subject again and again—we had it in 1870, in 1882, and again in 1883—I am not aware that on any one of those occasions was a proposition of this kind over made or suggested. Therefore, this is a very novel proposition, and it certainly 767 does not commend itself to my judgment. In conclusion, I will merely say that as the clause stands there are three protections in regard to the initiation of this preliminary inquiry. First of all, there is to be sworn information; then the Attorney General may or may not act upon this information; and, thirdly, the Resident Magistrate may or may not hold the inquiry.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Unless the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland spoke for the purpose of consuming time, he might, seeing that there are scarcely any Members of his own Party in the House, and that he was practically speaking to us, have used arguments relative to what we have addressed to him. The Attorney General for Ireland knows very well that he did not touch upon a single point in the speech of my hon. Friend (Mr. Chance). The right hon. and learned Gentleman began by saying that Resident Magistrates and magistrates generally have always been accustomed to take depositions. So they have; but under what considerations? When a person is charged, and when witnesses come up voluntarily and in open Court to make the depositions. We complain that some Cavalry man, or some, gentleman connected with the Navy or the Militia or Horse Marines, should have power to take up anybody he pleases, and subject him to an inquisition in his own private room, as was done in one case in Dublin. To tell us that Resident Magistrates have always been acting in the way proposed by this Bill is to tell us a thing that is not. It is absurd for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to use an argument of that kind. Again, he said he knew nothing about Scotch law, and did not want to know anything about French law. I think it would be a little better —anyhow, he would be none the worse—if he did know something about French and Scotch law. It would be no burden to him. He is not so overburdened with a knowledge of the British law that he cannot stand a little further enlightenment. He says he does not know anything at all of French law. What was the point raised by my hon. Friend (Mr. Chance)? The point was, that in a country where serious crimes have proceeded at a most extraordinary and an abominable rate, the most you can 768 do to a person who refuses to answer your questions is to imprison him for 10 days, or to fine him 100 francs. It is proposed in this Bill to give the power to keep such a man in gaol for ever. In France the Judge who presides at the preliminary inquiries is appointed for three years, while in Ireland the Resident Magistrates, who are recruited mainly from the Cavalry, the Artillery, the Militia, or the Marines, are appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and may be dismissed at a moment's notice. Then, again, my hon. Friend pointed out what happens in Scotland; but the Attorney General for Ireland disposes of the subject by saying he knows nothing about Scotch law. Then he tells us that these provisions were proposed before, and no objection was taken. They were proposed at a time when the great majority of the Irish people were disfranchised, when we had not had the experience of Mr. Curran and Mr. George Bolton, when witnesses were not dragged up and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary (Mr. J. O'Connor) in his place. He was sent to gaol for a fortnight under a clause like this. Why? Because he would not answer irrelevant questions. This is a very nice power to put into the hands of half-pay Cavalrymen and Militiamen. Another argument used by the Attorney General was that County Court Judges in Ireland only sit six months in the year. If I were to bring forward a Motion to reduce the salaries of these gentlemen, on the ground that they only sit six months a-year, I should be told they sit all the year round. The Motion does not mean that the County Court Judge is to sit at Sessions. The Judge can by order take these depositions within his county at any time, whether in or out of Session; and all that we desire is that gentlemen learned in the law should at least be provided to take part in this inquiry. My hon. Friend said that some of them are barristers. Well, no doubt that is so; but what sort of barristers? Take the case of the one most recently appointed. I will ask the Committee to judge of the sufficiency of the legal knowledge of this gentleman by the amount of salary he is receiving. The Solicitor General for Ireland appointed him for making Primrose League speeches during the General 769 Election. This gentleman went over to Ireland as a Liberal Unionist. He had formerly been a Sub-Commissioner appointed under the Administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), and, like many of the crawling barristers of the Irish Bar, when he has got all he can get from a person, the moment the right hon. Gentleman went out of power, like a miserable cur, went and bit the hand that had fed him. So this gentleman, having no legal business, went over during the General Election and made speeches for the evening, and so successful was he in his undertaking that he was appointed by the present Administration as a Resident Magistrate; and what does the Committee think is the magnificent salary that this gentleman with a sufficiency of legal knowledge receives—why £450 per annum. These are the kind of men, these wastrels of the Legal Profession whom you get as magistrates when you depart from your usual practice of appointing Militiamen and ex-Army captains. For my own part, I would rather be tried by a military man, even a Militiaman, than by one of the wastrels of the Irish Bar appointed by the Government for doing Liberal Unionist work at the General Election. The County Court Judges receive something like £1,200 a-year, and have a fair amount of legal training; and I submit that it would be infinitely preferable to make these gentlemen the authority under this clause. But that reasonable demand is met by a disdainful negative by the Attorney General for Ireland. Of course, the Government did not deal at all with one argument of my hon. Friend, an argument I myself addressed to the Chief Secretary in the form of a Question in this House. I refer to the point of the tenure of office of these Resident Magistrates. This Return which my hon. Friend has read to the House is most amusing, for it gives you almost the pedigrees of these gentlemen like those of racehorses, and here you have every one of them marked "tenure of office—pleasure." So, therefore, this law is to be made permanent in our country; and whereas the great principle ever since the English Revolution has been that men of this kind are not to be appointed by pleasure, you get a class of men to whom you pay £420 a-year 770 in Ireland, and hold them in their office subject to your pleasure. No doubt, you will be able to get men to carry out the provisions of this Bill, men without much professional character, for £420 a-year, men who, for them, are in a state of starvation; but you cannot get decent men to do work of this kind. It is dirty work, or may be made dirty work by gentlemen who may stoop to all sorts of discreditable devices to please. We say that if these inquiries are to be conducted at all, they should not be conducted by gentlemen who will stoop to discreditable devices. Seeing that the entire principle of the English Judiciary is that it should be permanent, it is too bad that you should hold over these Stipendary Magistrates the alternative of being sent about their business if they refuse to do your dirty work. It is too bad that these distinguished gentlemen should have before them the prospect of dismissal—the fear of being sent back to the Four Courts when their practice, if they ever had any, is at an end, and that you send back those half-pay cavalry gentlemen who no longer find employment in the Army to seek other occupation. We protest against these gentlemen having held over them the alternative of dismissal or carrying into effect what we maintain are the tremendous penalties of this measure. The fear of this discussion is that we Irish Members are told that we are wanted here, that our presence here is needful to secure the happiness of England and Ireland; we are told that all we have to do is to stay here and argue in a proper manner, and that we shall be listened to. We are told that our arguments will always be listened to with intense pleasure and intense interest, and that if we only put them reasonably and state them with moderation—and moderation is a quality which, for my part, I always condemn and never indulge in—our arguments will not only be listened to, but will be carried into practical effect. These hypocritical pretences ought to be dropped. Why do you not frankly refuse our requests, and say to us—"We won't argue with you; we are going to pass this Bill on the sic volo sic jubeo principle." I should infinitely prefer that method on the part of the Government to speeches such as that we have just heard from the right hon. 771 and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland, whose arguments are really a negation and debauchery of debate.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
The answer given by the Attorney General for Ireland on the Amendment of my hon. Friend, if it prove nothing else, certainly proves the versatility of the right hon. and learned Attorney General's powers of argumentation. It was only last night that the right hon. and learned Gentleman drew attention to the Scotch law to support the introduction of this clause into this Bill—in order to induce the Committee to assent to the clause as it then stood—but, Sir, when dealing with the question of the Scotch law to-night upon the point where the Scotch law was absolutely against the arguments of the Government, the right hon. and learned Gentleman took up the extraordinary ground of saying that he himself knew nothing whatever about the Scotch law. As I say, it was only last night that he was arguing upon another Amendment that what was proposed in the clause existed in Scotland. He was not even correct in his facts last night, because under the Scotch law the person who has the power of inquiry is a judicial person—it is a person of judicial training, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman failed altogether to see that our objection to the clause as it now stands, is that these enormous powers are to be put into the hands of persons totally unqualified to exercise them. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to give us a learned dessertation on the powers of the magistrates at the present time, both in Ireland and in England; and, if there was anything in his argument, it amounted to this, and this only, that the powers proposed to be given to the Resident Magistrates in Ireland under these clauses, are powers that they have at the present moment. That is an extraordinary argument for a Gentleman in the position of the Attorney General for Ireland to use, when it is proposed to confer these new and extraordinary powers upon these gentlemen. It seems to me that the right hon. and learned Gentleman failed altogether to 772 grasp the object and meaning of this Amendment, and I hope that presently the Solicitor General for Ireland, who is in his place, will get up and make some show of argument, at any rate, in opposition to our proposal. Here are powers of a most extraordinary nature being conferred upon Resident Magistrates in Ireland, and the Amendment that we propose is an Amendment that I should have thought the Government would have been most ready to assent to. It is not an Amendment which will limit their powers in any sense, but it is an Amendment for securing that those powers shall be exercised, as the Government are never tired of telling us they will be exercised, in a judicial and fair spirit. We do not believe either in the judicial power or the fair spirit of the Resident Magistrates of Ireland. Of course, we object to these powers altogether, and, for the matter of that, to the whole Bill; but what we want to see in this clause is, that when granting these powers, we should take precautions to see that they shall be exercised with some fairness and some show of justice. The Crown Solicitor and Sessional Crown Prosecutor in Ireland, the functionaries named in this Amendment, are men of legal training. They may be good, bad, or indifferent; but, at any rate they are men of legal training, and are able to understand the bearings of a legal case, and to conduct the case; but the Resident Magistrates of Ireland are as unable and unfit to conduct such inquiries as either you or I, Sir, would be to conduct the operations of a balloon. I beg your pardon, Mr. Courtney, perhaps you might be able to manage a balloon; but I am quite sure that I should not. Who are these Resident Magistrates? we have heard a list of them read out to-night. They are half-pay colonels, quarter-pay captains, and no-pay lieutenants of the Army. What sort of men are they? I will mention one case which has come under my own observations, and, for obvious reasons, I will not mention the gentleman's name. I will tell the Committee what I know about one of those gentlemen to whom the Government are about to entrust the enormous powers of this clause. I was asked to give the gentleman a recommendation, and I told him that if I did he would not get the appointment. He arrived in this country after military 773 service abroad. He was noted in the service as one of the best gentlemen riders they had, and was also noted as being the best pigsticker in India. He came back to this country, and with that desire for larger resources that all gentlemen from India seem to have, he applied at once for a position as Resident Magistrate in Ireland. As I say, he came to me and asked me to help him, and I have given the reason why I did not intervene on his behalf. I did not want to injure him. I said to him, you have not the faintest possible chance of obtaining this position, and he replied, "Oh, yes, I have. One of our chaps is already in." This, Sir, is literally true. I have heard it said by officials in this House that no one is appointed to the Resident Magistracy who has not been tested beforehand. Hon. Gentlemen will remember that statement having been made by Governments in this House for the past five or six years. Well, at any rate, this gentleman on returning from India applied for the post of Resident Magistrate, and in three days he got it. I will not say whether he is in that position still or not, because I do not wish to particularize him. Here is a man, a particularly good rider, who had won several races and was in possession of several valuable cups. He was a good pigsticker, but he knew no more about the law than a child. He knew little about his own country, he had gone straight from College into the Army, he had seen a long period of service in India, he came home, and three days afterwards was appointed Resident Magistrate in Ireland. Is it astonishing, Sir, that we have no confidence in such men as these? I am not speaking of this gentleman's honesty or general character, but this Committee is about to put most enormous powers into the hands of these men, and it is childish for the Attorney General for Ireland to say that these powers are now exercised in this country and in Ireland. It is nothing of the kind, and the Attorney General for Ireland knows it perfectly well. The powers that ordinary Justices of the Peace have now are limited powers. The powers in the law as it exists are governed by traditions and practice, and are not in any way to be compared with the enormous powers to be placed in the hands of these men. What are these powers? It is not neces- 774 sary that a crime should have been committed; it is not necessary that an offence should have been committed; but if somebody believes that something is wrong—a very general statement—any one of these gentlemen, the pigsticker, for instance, receives a mandate from the Attorney General for Ireland and holds an inquiry. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said—"I have power under this Bill to instruct them to make this inquiry; but the Resident Magistrates are quite an independent body of gentlemen, and they can refuse to make the inquiry if they like." I should like to see my friend the pigsticker refusing to obey the mandate of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, seeing that he is holding his office during pleasure. No, Sir, I imagine that he would hold the inquiry. What would he inquire into? Into crime? No, no crime has been committed. As to some offence? No, for no offence has been committed. He makes a roving inquiry into whatever he chooses. Let us look a little further. An independent magistrate in this country when there has been some unfortunate being evicted from his holding, or when he has his furniture taken away by the Sheriff, does not go down to the scene of the proceedings at the head of 50 or 100 policemen. When there is a riot in the street the independent magistrates of this country do not go round and take part in it; but in Ireland the Stipendiary Magistrates do these things. You may find them commanding a whole army of police, and mixing themselves up with military enterprises against some miserable starving tenant, who is to be evicted. The Stipendiary Magistrate in Ireland is in charge of everything of this kind. He may go out into the street, and perhaps through his indecision, his folly, or his want of patience and consideration when the people are in a state of excitement, makes it infinitely worse than it would otherwise have been. He may go then from the street into his study, which for the nonce is called a Court of Justice, and he may summon before him anyone he likes and may cross-examine them as he chooses. There are several of these gentlemen who have acted as agents of the landlords, and several of them are related to landlords. I should like to know if it is fair to ask these men to hold these inquisitorial inquiries, or 775 whether it is fair to give thorn the power to do so, and whether it is fair to give them the power to cross-examine some unfortunate tenant or other or any number of tenants, he himself being interested in the collection of rents in that district? But under this Bill it is to such men as those that you give these powers. I will take an example, the case of a Resident Magistrate in Ireland whom the Government appointed, and whom they were uncommonly glad to get rid of again—a gentleman who was sent out to Egypt, and who was turned out of there, and who was sent elsewhere and has had to be relieved of his duties in every quarter of the world in which he has been placed—I allude to Mr. Clifford Lloyd. I will not appeal to young Members of the House because they will not have, probably, a sufficient acquaintance with the debates which have taken place in recent years to follow me closely upon this point; but I will ask old Members of this House who have followed the course of these debates, and have followed the career of this gentlemen in his judicial wanderings all over the globe—I will ask them whether anyone will say that the powers under this Bill are powers which should be given to such a man as Mr. Clifford Lloyd? Why, the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland himself will not get up and say that Mr. Clifford Lloyd is a person to be intrusted with these powers, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman took part in the debates which were held some time ago with regard to this Gentleman's conduct.
§ MR. MOLLOY
Then I am sorry the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not pay more attention to his duties; because we were constantly discussing this question, and I am unable to imagine—
§ MR. HOLMES
I had not the honour of a seat in the House when the debates concerning the conduct of Mr. Clifford Lloyd took place.
§ MR. MOLLOY
No doubt the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not in the House when Mr. Clifford Lloyd was in Ireland and when the debates im- 776 mediately affecting him took place; but the right hon. and learned Gentleman must remember that very many references have been made to Mr. Clifford Lloyd in this House quite recently. At any rate, will anyone say that Mr. Clifford Lloyd is a person to whom the inquisitorial powers of these clauses should be intrusted? Will anyone say that Mr. Clifford Lloyd is the sort of gentleman to whom a roving commission should be given to ask such questions as he chooses on any occasion? We want these powers to be exercised fairly. No one can say that the demand we make in this Amendment is one that limits the powers of the Resident Magistrates. It does not tend to that at all. We want these powers to be exercised with fairness and justice, and we contend that it is impossible for your Militiamen and Yeomanrymen and your relics of foreign service to conduct such inquiries as are contemplated in the clause with anything like fairness. Then let us go a little further into the interesting duties of these quasi-judicial functionaries in Ireland. Stipendary Magistrates here when they are in a difficulty, what do they do? Do they come to the Home Secretary for instructions? I should like to hear what the Home Secretary would say to one of them if he did. Are they responsible to the English Attorney General? Certainly not. Well, but what do the Resident Magistrates in Ireland do? They go regularly to Dublin Castle, and take their instructions from the Chief Secretary. If the Chief Secretary should not happen to be at the Castle, they come over to this country to take their instructions from him as to how they are to conduct their business. We are asked to look on the powers contained in this clause as if they were to be conferred on Stipendiary Magistrates in this country; but it is impossible to have the same confidence in the Resident Magistrates in Ireland. Can anyone feel confidence in the judicial fairness of a man who holds his position at the discretion of the Lord Lieutenant, who acts as a policeman, and very often as a riotous policeman—who goes to the Chief Secretary and gets his instructions originally from Dublin Castle? Is this a man to whom judicial powers should be given? Would you dare to give these powers to any such class of men in this country, or in any other part of Her Majesty's Dominions, except perhaps in India, where 777 very curious things happen. I would venture to say that in all the Acts passed in this House in time of difficulty such powers were never given to a body of men subject to the will of a particular Minister as those you propose to give to the Resident Magistrates in Ireland. I fail to see what objection there can be on the part of Her Majesty's Government to this clause if all they want is that these powers shall be exercised, and exercised fairly. What objection can they have to putting these powers into the hands of men who are capable of exercising them because of their judicial office and capacities? If you had said in your Bill that Resident Magistrates should have the power, but that no Resident Magistrate should sit without having somebody of judicial training by his side, I could understand it. I should say—"Well, you wish to keep up the powers of your Resident Magistrates in Ireland; but you are willing to take such precautions as will prevent the miscarriage of justice or a misuse of these powers." But you do not do that. The Chief Secretary says that the Government will take care to see that the Resident Magistrates who exercise these powers shall have some legal knowledge. That, again, is a childish observation to make on the part of the Government; because the powers are not limited to any section of Resident Magistrates, but are given to all of them. There are no words of limitation in the clause as to the exercise of his powers by the Attorney General. You will not take the commonest precautions to see that the work that these magistrates have to do shall be honestly and judicially done; but you ask the House and the country to grant these powers to a body of men to whom you cannot point a parallel in any other portion of the three Kingdoms. I say you ask this country to do it; and, unfortunately, this country is altogether ignorant on these points, although we are endeavouring, and, I think, with some success, to give them a little knowledge now. For these reasons I strongly support the Amendment, and I hope the Solicitor General for Ireland will deal with this question, not as the Attorney General for Ireland did, by stating that the powers to be conferred upon the Resident Magistrates will be similar to powers exercised by magistrates in this country, but will answer the objections I have en- 778 deavoured to put before the Committee —these reasonable objections which we entertain to placing these powers in the hands of a political body.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
It is especially necessary for our case against the clause in this Act that it should be distinctly understood what is the character of the Resident Magistrates in Ireland. Now, I do not intend to traverse in any sense the ground that has been gone over already. We have had from an hon. Member who spoke before the dinner hour, a list of the Resident Magistrates at the present time in Ireland, and I think I am right in saying that in this list we find that 59 out of the 76 are military men in one form or other. But I just wish to call the attention of the Committee to the statutable position of these magistrates. They are appointed under an Act of 6 & 7 Will. IV., but I do not intend to weary the Committee with quotations from that Act. I only desire to refer to the continuing or Amendment Act, 16 & 17 Vict. c. 60, in which their position is clearly indicated, because it is provided that they shall receive their pensions or their retiring allowance or superanuation on a certificate of deligence and fidelity which is to be given to them, and then there occurs a provision that whereas magistrates, that is Resident Magistrates, are not under the order or control of the Inspector General of Constabulary, and as therefore he has frequently no knowledge of their diligence and fidelity, it is therefore provided that in the case of the superanuation of magistrates who thus cannot receive a certificate from the Inspector General of Constabulary, such certificate is to be given by the Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant. It is clear from this, and also from the clause in the other Act in which it is stated that magistrates hold office during the pleasure of the Lord Lieutenant or of the Governor or Governors, that Resident Magistrates are officially under the direction of the Government and of the Castle in that country. But, Sir, I want to call attention to this fact, and also that the whole of the justification that has been given or attempted to be given, as far as I can make out for this preliminary inquiry indicated in Section I., has been that it is the existing law in Scotland; and I know that before this Bill came before the House in its Committee stage 779 I, and I presume other Members of the House, read a pamphlet from some Liberal Unionist source or else from the Loyal and Patriotic Union, in which it is stated that our opposition to the preliminary inquiry to be established by this Bill was utterly condemnable, because what we are condemning already existed in Scotland, which is one of the freest countries under the sun. But the preliminary inquiry proposed differs vitally from the law of Scotland, and what I want to observe is this, that the Amendment which is now proposed has for its object to make this preliminary inquiry somewhat more in accordance with the procedure in Scotland. the procedure in Scotland is in no sense, so far as I understand it, similar to the preliminary inquiry as it is proposed by the Government, but were this clause inserted there would be a certain amount of similarity in respect, at any rate, of the Court appealed to. The Attorney General for Ireland, I think, said that in this country or in Ireland there was no such thing as having a County Court Judge to perform such duties. Sir, there is no such thing either in this country or in Ireland as this preliminary inquiry, and if we go to Scotland where such an inquiry—in a very different form, but still an inquiry of this kind—does exist, we there find that the corresponding individual to the County Court Judge is exactly the person before whom such an inquiry takes place, because the Sheriff and the Sheriff's substitute practically occupies that position, and the Crown Solicitor in Ireland is the answering official to the Procurator Fiscal in Scotland; and I take it, therefore, that the argument on which this clause is presented to the House requires the insertion of this Amendment to make that argument at all hold water. I have only one other remark to make in respect of these Resident Magistrates, and that is that in Scotland you give the whole preliminary inquiry into the hands of a competent legal authority. In Ireland, you propose to give it into hands that are not competent in regard to legal matters. The Bill contains evidence within itself, that the authorities to whom you are going to entrust these powers are not competent legal authorities. Let us turn to the 11th clause and to the 6th paragraph. We there find—it is on page 7—that the Court of Summary Juris- 780 diction is defined as being, in other parts of Ireland than the Metropolis—Two Resident Magistrates in Petty Sessions, one of whom shall be a person of the sufficiency of whose legal knowledge the Lord Lieutenant shall be satisfied.Well, it is evident from that you try to safeguard the character of such a Court by providing that care shall be taken that at any rate one of the Resident Magistrates who sit on it shall have a competent legal knowledge. It is as obvious as the day, that that means that these Gentlemen in general have not this legal knowledge; but if you turn to this preliminary inquiry proposed by the Bill you will find that it is provided that it is to take place before a single Resident Magistrate. Now, these Resident Magistrates, as you admit in the very clauses of this Bill, are not competent, by the possession of legal knowledge, to form a Court of summary jurisdiction under this Bill; therefore they are not competent for the inquiry which you say is similar to that of Scotland. One more remark, and I have done. This Bill appears to me and to many others, to be a Bill which puts everything into the hands of the Executive, and which overrides, wherever it can, the ordinary legal process. I do not wish to criticize any other clause than that before the Committee; but here, for instance, we find that practically the whole of this preliminary inquiry is in the hands of that Executive. We object to that position. We object to placing the whole Criminal Procedure of Ireland in the hands of the Executive Government, which is an English Government, and is represented largely by English and Scotch Gentlemen sitting on the opposite Benches. Our desire in supporting this Amendment is that we shall, if possible, separate the Executive from the Judicial authority and restore something of regular Criminal Procedure which is burst up and abandoned, article by article, in this Bill. We find here, in fact, as in many other things, the Tory Government and the Conservative Party are about to play like a bull in a china shop with the ancient principles of the Constitution under which we live.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S)
I desire to express my regret that the greater number of the Party opposite do not feel it to be their duty to be present during this discussion—the dis- 781 cussion of this very important Amendment. I also must express my regret that the Government see their way to accept any of the checks and safeguards that have been proposed from this side of the House from time to time during the discussion of this Bill. I believe it would be very advantageous for the Government if they accepted this Amendment, because they will have to defend in the future the administration of this very stringent Act, and they ought to know by this time with what vigour any complaint with regard to the administration of the Act will be urged by the Representatives of Ireland. They ought to know, from the character of those who will have to administer the Act—they ought to suspect, at least, how often they will be called upon to defend action that will not be consistent with the intention of this House in passing this stringent law. The proposal of the Government in the present measure differs somewhat from the Act of 1882. In carrying out the Act of 1882, the Government had to appoint Special Resident Magistrates to carry it out. They appointed, in Dublin, a man of such wide experience and such legal knowledge as Judge Curran. They appointed Mr. Hall in the South of Ireland. He was not a lawyer, he was not a retired solicitor, he was not a friend of the landlords—he was a promoted policeman, he was a man who had some knowledge of the administration of the law. I am not saying that he was the best possible person; but, at any rate, he was better than many of the magistrates who will have to administer this Bill. As to the statements of the Attorney General for Ireland, with regard to the present magistrates taking depositions, it must be borne in mind that they are assisted in their daily functions by Clerks of the Peace who are gentlemen of wide experience. I believe that the Resident Magistrates in the discharge of their duties have the assistance of men of great experience; but that will not be the case under this Act. [The ATTORNEY GENERAL for IRELAND (Mr. Holmes): Oh! yes; that will be the case.] Now, I have a book on Scotch law which states that in these cases the ordinary rules of evidence as regards the examination of witnesses should be followed; but the magistrates putting this Act in operation will not be supposed to do 782 that. At one time I resisted the operation of the clause in the Act of 1882; I resisted it up to the point of refusing to be sworn. Now, why was I brought before the Court at all? The officials of the district knew well that I had no sympathy whatever with the case they were investigating. The officials in that part of the country and the officials of Dublin no doubt well knew that I had delivered a speech a few days before I was summoned, in which I denounced in vigorous language the acts that had been done. They must have known that I could give no material evidence in the case they were investigating, and I hold that it ought to be the object of the Law Officers to get material evidence with regard to the matter under investigation. Well, the first question which the magistrate will put to the person coming before him may not be relevant to the case, and it is possible that the individual may not think it right to answer it; and the magistrate will be able to say that he is the best judge of the questions to be asked. I protested that I was right in not answering certain questions, and the magistrate said—"How dare you, Sir, make terms with the law?" The conspiracy under investigation might have involved 30 or 40 persons; yet I was the 201st person brought before that Court of Inquiry. Men were brought before it who had severed their relations with politics long before, and were asked questions relating to matters that had taken place years previously. When I declined to answer, the magistrate held out to me the prospect that I should go to prison. I elected to go to prison. But, before we reached that point, the magistrate tried, by threats and bullying, to overcome my resolution. He did not try the whisky inducement referred to tonight; but, when I declined to be sworn, he suggested that I should leave the country—that I should leave my business and my family and my country, because I would not please him. This was one of the Resident Magistrates appointed to carry out the law. I hold that I am as good a citizen as he is, and I maintain that I respect the law of the land as much as anyone in the country, from the Lord Lieutenant down to the ordinary policeman; and yet that man had the audacity, under the Act of Parliament, to suggest that I should leave 783 the country. This is why we propose to introduce checks and safeguards against the improper administration of such a stringent Act as this. But returning to that inquiry. Having failed by bulling and threats to compel me to submit to his terms, he tried to force me to do so by other means. I looked round the apartment, and what did I see? There was a detective with a revolver in his hand at full cock. I bade him put it aside, and he did so, but the magistrate did not tell him to do that. By every force of terror the magistrate tried to compel me to submit to examination, but I refused. I think it was a dishonourable position to be placed in at all, and I thought the Act was being used, in the first place, for a purpose to which it ought not to be applied; and, in the second place, I thought I should do better to incur the penalty under the Act than submit to the dishonourable terms imposed. Now, what effect had this treatment with regard to the Act of Parliament? Had it the effect of gaining for it any additional respect? No, Sir, my conduct drove back the Crimes Act in Ireland, because, shortly afterwards, the Executive could not get men to be sworn at all, and the half-a-dozen inquiries going on at the time were closed up in a fortnight. Men accepted the penalty of imprisonment rather than have to submit to the terms imposed by the magistrate. This will occur again, and I advise young men in Ireland, if the Government do not accept the checks which we propose, to decline to be sworn, and to go to prison—to resist the Government who are prosecuting their political opponents to the extent of trying to get them to leave the country. This advice will be followed, I have no doubt, by the young men of the country; and I say no matter how you pass this Act of Parliament it will prove to be a failure. The Scotch law, to which reference has frequently been made, provides that it should be stated to the person brought forward what is the charge on which he is brought up for examination. No such statement will be made, according to my experience, by the Resident Magistrates in Ireland. Again, by the Scotch law, it is also to be stated to the person to be examined that he is not obliged to make any statement unless he pleases or answer any question. That is what the 784 Scotch law requires, but this Act does not provide for any such protection of the witnesses. The magistrates will say that they are the best judges of what questions should be put, and if any protest be made by the person under examination he will be threatened with imprisonment. In my own case, when I was brought up a second time for examination I was sent back to prison, and if it had not been for the action taken in this House, I should have remained there until the expiration of the Act of Parliament, passing 22 out of the 24 hours in a cell 12 feet by six feet. Therefore, I hold that if the Government desire to get material evidence under this Act they will accept this Amendment and others that have been proposed on this side of the House. The successful operation of this Act will greatly depend on the confidence that will be excited in the minds of the people with regard to its administration. It will be absolutely necessary, in order to its proper administration, that men should be appointed to carry out its provisions who have some knowledge of the law, and who have some respect for the law, because I maintain that such men as Captain Plunkett, and many others like him in Ireland, have no respect whatever for the law. I know the private sentiments of the persons of whom I am speaking, I know their temper, and I know that they will bring to their judicial functions minds warped by prejudice and a determination to crush the people by hook or crook. I believe the Government will consult their convenience in future if they accept this Amendment—if they put the administration of the law in the hands of lawyers who have some respect for it, and who have some regard for the Constitution, for these Resident Magistrates in Ireland have no respect for the Constitution because they do not understand the Constitution. Their education and training has been altogether against the proper understanding of the Constitution. Therefore, I say that the Government will do well to place the administration of this very stringent Act of Parliament in the hands of men in whom they have confidence, and in whom also the people will have some amount of confidence. They will consult their convenience by doing that, because the other course on which they seem bent, 785 and the obstinacy which seems to characterize them in their dealings with suggestions made on this side of the House, will lead to a considerable amount of inconvenience and heartburning in future, for they will have to defend acts which will not bear strict investigation; they will have to defend many false and many erroneous interpretations of the Bill now under consideration and about to become the law of the land. I have had bitter experience not only of the Crimes Act, but of most other Coercion Acts passed for what is called the better Government of Ireland. I have no desire to see the people driven to a state of exasperation. I have no desire to endure those physical sufferings in the future which I have endured in the past; but, if it should come to that, I shall not shirk them. I shall be in my place in Ireland to contend against the wicked administration of this Act of Parliament, because many acts of Parliament designed for the good of Ireland have been wickedly administered by those in whom the Government of the day have had confidence. It is in the best spirit, therefore, that I now offer these suggestions to the Government. I have drawn from my experience in doing so. I cannot discuss the question from a legal point of view—that has been already done by those on these Benches who are well qualified to deal with it. The duty will be imposed on us to see that the Act, if it becomes law, is administered in a fashion which will press as lightly as possible on the people of Ireland; and I have no doubt that the Government will have often to defend the action of the administrators of the law—the Resident Magistrates and others. The law will perhaps be put in operation against Members of this House. However that may be, any improper administration of the Act which may result from refusing to admit the very reasonable Amendments proposed on these Benches, will bring such a storm about their ears as to make the Government regret the course they have taken.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
It is obvious that in the matter of coercion in Ireland the Government are going from bad to worse. It is worth noting the progress that has been made from the hesitating, halting provisions in earlier Coercion Bills to the cynical perfections 786 of the present proposals. The section of the Act of 1870, which established secret inquiries, provided that any Justice of the Peace might open an inquiry. That was bad enough, considering the character of the County Magistrates in Ireland, three-fourths of which body consist of members of the landlord class; but, in the Act of 1882, by the 16th section, it was enacted that these inquiries should be held by a Resident Magistrate in the district in which the crime was committed. That was a distinct advance. It was found, on investigation, that the unpaid magistrates were not quite dependent enough on the Government of the day, and it was felt that some more dependent officials ought to be employed for carrying out this provision of the Act. But that was not enough for the framers of the present Bill. This Bill provides that any Resident Magistrate may hold these inquiries. How will that work? The Government will look out for some men of exceptional experience in hunting out crime, and their choice will fall, in all probability, on some person like French, or one enagaged in the Detective Department. Everyone knows that French was in the highest repute when he was in the Constabulary, where he stood at the head of the Detective Department. He was the man employed by the Government of the day to hold inquiries in various parts of the country, and was, as he said, "often obliged to work things close up to the wind."
§ THE CHAIRMAN (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I fail to see the relevancy of the observations which the hon. Member is now making to the Question before the Committee.
§ MR. CLANCY
I was trying to point out that such a man might be appointed for the purpose of administering this section.
§ MR. CLANCY
I was endeavouring to show that the Government might select persons, who were engaged, like French, in hunting up crime by more than questionable devices.
§ MR. CLANCY
Well, I will leave that point, and suggest that some members of the Irish Bar should be substituted for the Resident Magistrates, and I 787 cannot see why a proposal of this character should not be accepted. Surely the County Court Judges can furnish a sufficient number of men for the purpose of the Government. There must be among them suitable persons—they are nearly all of them connected with the landlords, and they are all experienced in holding Courts of Inquiry already. Between these men, and the half-pay officers, who have always been, and will be, mere creatures of the Government, there is the widest possible difference. The County Court Judge is not dependent for his salary or the continuance of his office on Her Majesty's Government, and the profession of the Bar has after all some effect in producing a sense of honour among its members which is entirely absent from the class of half-pay officers. This proposal, if it were adopted, would have the effect of assimilating, to some extent, the law of Ireland to the law of Scotland. The law of Scotland is this, that the inquiry must be carried out by a judicial authority. It seems to me that this is a point which has been overlooked. Now, I am open to correction if I am wrong; but I believe I am right in saying that, in the first place, no inquiry can be held like this in Scotland unless there is an an accused person, and, secondly, that it cannot be put in operation except by order of a judicial officer. We now ask that the inquiry should be conducted by judicial officers, and it seems to me that we have a perfect right to make this request, because the very worst construction only can be put upon the intentions of the Resident Magistrates.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. E., Holderness)
I shall be glad if Her Majesty's Government can see their way to mentioning the qualifications which may be desirable in the gentlemen who will administer this part of the Bill. I speak from my experience as an officer, and while I think substantial justice is done, yet I should be disposed to say that difficult cases are not always satisfactorily or easily dealt with, and I assume that that arises from the fact those gentlemen who have had to administer the law were men without judicial experience. I should have been glad if the Government could have seen their way, in some degree, to make a concession to Gentlemen on the other side of the House in this matter. I am 788 disposed to think that it would give greater confidence in the administration of these powers, if people with some knowledge of the law had been directed to administer them.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
It would have been interesting to know how the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down is going to vote on this question. Notwithstanding the Platonic regret expressed about the absence of safeguard from this clause, we shall not be surprised to find the hon. and gallant Gentleman voting in the ranks of the majority. I think the Amendment before the House is the most important we have had yet to deal with. Hitherto we have had Amendments of a very important nature; but up to the present time I venture to say we have only touched a fringe of the matter, and that the pith and marrow of the question is the character of the tribunal to which the Government intend handing over these inquiries. Our opinion is that not only has the Government selected a bad class of officials for holding these investigations, but that if they were to rack their brains to find out the worst class of persons they could not have hit upon a class better suited to their purpose than that of the Resident Magistrates. We have heard what that official's duties and obligations are as defined by Act of Parliament. We know, Sir, what hostage to fortune this official is obliged to give before he can merit reward; we know that, when a Resident Magistrate in Ireland at the close of his judicial career claims the pension which most public officials enjoy, he has, as a preliminary, to go to his masters in Dublin Castle and obtain from the Chief Secretary a certificate that he has served him with diligence and fidelity, these being the words which are to be found in the Act of Parliament. We can imagine the cold reception which one of these officials would get if his acts as Resident Magistrate, and if the political views and sentiments expressed by him at any time, did not meet with favour in the sight of the Chief Secretary. We have further heard, Mr. Courtney, what the general character of the class from which Resident Magistrates in Ireland are drawn is. We have seen it proved from the figures supplied to us by the Government that the vast majority of Resident Magistrases are not legal gentlemen, are not 789 men trained in the law, are not men who have any special knowledge of legal subjects, but are, in the proportion, I think, of 59 to 17, half-pay officers or gentlemen in some way connected with the Military Services in this country. Well, Sir, that is not enough. I ask you whether the Irish. Resident Magistrates are drawn from the people, are they drawn from the classes who, in Ireland, may be supposed to be in sympathy with the masses of the people? We know that is not the case; we know that, on the contrary, the office of Resident Magistrate is a rest, a refugium peccatorum, that that office is the reward which every broken down half-pay officer, which every younger son or younger brother of an Irish landlord or Peer looks forward to when he cannot eke out his means in any other way. I venture to say that if the Return which is before the House could be still further supplemented, we should find that even a still larger proportion of that body than is indicated by the figures I have mentioned is connected directly or indirectly with the landlord class, a class whom we all know have for the last half-dozen years been engaged in deadly conflict with the mass of the people to whom these gentlemen are to mete out law under this section. What is the next fact we have to meet? What has been the relation existing between Resident Magistrates in Ireland and the people, and the politicans of Ireland for the past half-dozen years? There is not one of these officials, certainly not one prominent among them, who has not on some occasion or other come into violent conflict with some public man, with the National League organization, or with some of the prominent members of it. We know that one of the most important duties which these gentlemen have or had to fulfil under the Crimes Act was the duty of dispersing public meetings, and we know that in discharging that duty they over and over again came into violent, and I must say in some cases physical, conflict with Irish politicians who were conducting the national movement. That being so, I ask, is this this the class of officials to whom the Government ought to hand over the enormous powers conferred by this section? The Government themselves admit in this Bill that for the adminis- 790 tration of some of its provisions, at least, some legal knowledge is required. Then they go on to provide for the holding of a Court of Summary Jurisdiction; they make this concession to public opinion and to our views—they require that one of the magistrates composing that Court shall be a gentleman possessed of some degree of legal knowledge. I assert, Sir, that if it is important that one of the magistrates composing the Court of Summary Jurisdiction should be a person having legal knowledge, it is ten times more important that the official who holds the proposed Star Chamber inquiry should be a person similarly qualified. It is said by the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) that nothing of this sort is required, that any magistrate will be sufficient to administer the powers conferred under this section, because, as he says, any magistrate has power to take depositions. We will be content to limit the powers of this section to the powers of taking depositions; but is it not the case of the Government that something more than the taking of depositions is required. If all that they want is the taking of depositions, they have that power already, and this section is not necessary. We know very well that the duty of the magistrate who holds a Court under this section will not be merely to take depositions, but to hold a species of inquisition; to endeavour to rack from willing or unwilling witnesses information on any and every conceivable subject which the Attorney General may hand to him for investigation, and that the duties to be performed by the magistrate presiding in this Star Chamber Court will be duties as different as any can be from the mere duty of taking depositions. No, Mr. Courtney, the proceedings which will go on in the secret Courts, into which the Press cannot peep for the purpose of retailing what takes place, upon which, as the section at present stands, there will be no sort of check —the proceedings of these courts will resemble, not the ordinary proceedings of any Court of Law, but will resemble—and I should say considerably exceed—the proceedings which go on at a drum-head court martial. I have never been present at a drum-head court martial, but I can very well understand that that class of proceedings would be 791 far more congenial to the captains and colonels from whom the Irish Resident Magisterial Bench is recruited than the ordinary proceedings which takes place in a Court of Law. I wish now to advance another argument on this subject, and it is one which I do not think has been hitherto brought to the notice of the Committee. We have had some experience in Ireland of the exercise of these powers in the past; we all know that for three years under the Crimes Act this power to hold secret investigations was given to the Executive in Ireland, and was largely exercised by them. And what, I ask, was the lesson which these inquiries taught? Why, that in the one case where the duty of holding an inquiry was handed over, not to a Resident Magistrate, but to a competent member of the Irish Bar, namely—in the case where a secret investigation was held in Dublin into the Phoenix Park assassinations, and in that case only was a secret inquiry successful. In no other case out of the enormous number of secret inquiries held all over Ireland have the proceedings resulted successfully. Lot us consider the case of Kerry, taking into consideration the state of that country about the time when the Crimes Act was passed. In no part of Ireland was the necessity for these secret inquiries greater, assuming that inquiries of this character are necessary at all. A small district of Kerry, the distance round Castleisland, had been disgraced by probably more crime than had been committed in any other, I will not say equal area of Ireland, but I might almost say in all the rest of Ireland taken together. What happened in Kerry? The Government, instead of acting as they did in Dublin, instead of appointing a competent person, a barrister or lawyer, to hold a secret inquiry, sent down Captain Plunkett and other gentlemen of that character. These men held inquiry after inquiry, they brought up witness after witness, the inquiries were spread over weeks and even months, and what was the result? Absolutely nothing. In no single case did the inquiries held in Kerry lead to the bringing of a single criminal to justice; whereas, in the one case where they appointed Mr. Curran, a gentleman who is now a County Court Judge, the inquiry was eminently successful. Well, what happened in Kerry is not the only instance of the failure 792 of these inquiries. Several murders had been committed in or about the district of Loughrea, and the Government sent down a Resident Magistrate to hold inquiries there. As in Kerry, the Resident Magistrate failed, as he will always fail wherever duties other than those of a bludgeon man are cast upon him. If the Government found their action in this matter on the experience drawn from the administration of the Crimes Act, they will find in that experience the strongest argument for taking away from Resident Magistrates the powers conferred by this section, and handing them over either to the County Court Judges, or to some other competent persons. My hon. Friend the Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) has already drawn attention to the fact that by this Amendment he has brought the proposals of the Government more in consonance with the Scotch law, upon which law the Government chiefly rely in making this proposal. I do not intend to dwell upon that aspect of the matter. The only argument addressed to the Committee against the proposal of my hon. Friend is that the duties which this section creates are duties of a character foreign to those which are ordinarily discharged by County Court Judges. Well, of course, we know that that is so; we know perfectly well that up to the present time County Court Judges in Ireland have not been called upon to discharge such duties as are contemplated by this section. But that is no argument against the Amendment of my hon. Friend; the power created by this section is altogether a new power, it has never existed before except in the one case of the Crimes Act, where, as I have pointed out, it failed when it was administered by Resident Magistrates to whom it is now proposed to hand over the administration of it, and it succeeded in the one case in which it was handed over to a County Court Judge. The proposal to hand over this power to County Court Judges is a novel one; but so are the powers contained in the Bill we are now discussing, and if the Amendment is to be condemned on the ground that the proposal contained in it is a novel one. I fear that in using that argument the Government are using one which will tell with deadly effect against many other of the proposals of this Bill. I ask that the Government 793 should give us some undertaking that if they will not accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend they will, at any rate, do something that will in some way provide that the officials to whom they hand over the tremendous powers created by this clause shall be persons competent to administer these powers intelligently, and who can be relied upon to administer the Bill impartially. I am sure my hon. Friend is not particularly wedded to the form in which he has proposed his Amendment. He would be glad to welcome any concession in the direction of his Amendment, and I think the least we can ask is that in some form or other the Government will acknowledge the wisdom of the Amendment. The point of the Amendment is one deserving the attention of the Government and of the Committee, and I think we are justified in debating the Amendment until we receive some concession at the hands of the Government.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I do not intend to repeat what has already been said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes); but I desire to say what the Government consider it well to do in regard to this matter. We do intend to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) which appears upon the Paper lower down—namely, to insert in Clause 1, line 8, after the word "magistrate," the words "of whose legal knowledge the Lord Chancellor shall be satisfied."
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I do not know whether it arises upon this Amendment; but can the Government let us know to-night the nature of the other Amendments they have undertaken to propose on the subject of the retrospective action of the Bill?
§ SIR RICHARD WEBSTER
Probably the right hon. Gentleman is unaware that the Amendment he particularly mentions already stands upon the Paper of Amendments.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I think we might have been induced to have accepted the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), if we had not had an opportunity of studying the extraordinary Return which has been read by my hon. Friend the Mem- 794 ber for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) this evening, and which gives an account of the qualifications and previous callings of the Resident Magistrates of Ireland. After having read that Return, it is perfectly clear to us that the Lord Chancellor of Ireland could not by any possibility reasonably satisfy himself of the legal knowledge of these gentlemen, for the simple reason that they have no legal knowledge whatever. I observe a most remarkable fact in connection with that Return, that there is a distinction made in it between barristers and practising barristers. There are about three barristers and two practising barristers given in the Return. I think that is the amount that the Profession of the Law contributes to the Resident Magistracy of Ireland. There are some other interesting items of information to be gained by a perusal of this Return. The main body of the magistrates of Ireland are half-pay officers, or men of that class—there are 59 of such men out of a total of 76 Resident Magistrates. We have just listened to a most interesting speech from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Holderness Division of York (Commander Bethell). The hon. and gallant Gentleman has pointed out the general inability of men unacquainted with law, or men of military or quasi-military connection, to adjudicate on any questions in which legal points are of necessity raised. I contend there is no point of criminal practice in which a man's knowledge of law should be more thorough than the point in connection with the testing of evidence in criminal cases. It requires a man to have a considerable amount of practical knowledge and to be acquainted with the proceedings in Court, before he can possibly be qualified to sit and adjudicate on questions in connection with the exactness, or otherwise, of the evidence of persons brought before him. The whole character of this clause, the whole power which it is proposed to confer under it, is a power of so wide and so far-reaching a character that it is impossible for us to consent to it without opposition. We cannot consent for a moment to powers such as are provided for in this clause being conferred upon the Resident Magistrates of Ireland. We have unfortunate experience of the way in which these inquiries have been held under previous Acts; we know 795 well the power that was exercised under the Coercion Act of 1882 by Mr. Clifford Lloyd and persons of his class in Ireland.; we know that men were brought before Resident Magistrates, examined time after time, committed and re-committed to prison, and kept in gaol for months at a time. We know that secret inquiries were held with a view of extracting information, and with no success; we know that when that was done the political officials of the Crown in Ireland were of a Liberal tendency, and we can very well expect what will be done when not only the permanent officials of Ireland, but most of the political officials for the time being, are of an Orange hue. The permanent officials have always been Orangemen; but this is almost the first time we have had avowed Orangemen in high political positions. Take, for instance, the Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant (Colonel King-Harman). Not long ago he went to Rathmines, and was rapturously applauded when he said he was just after joining the Orange Society. It is men of this class who are to be entrusted with this enormous power. We know that when a Resident Magistrate acts at all fairly, he is at once marked out on a Report of the local police for the censure and condemnation of the Government in Dublin. I can give instances which have come within my own knowledge when men, having acted fairly, men, having decided in a way which did not suit the tastes of the Sub-Inspectors and County Inspectors of Ireland, were watched and degraded, and sometimes dismissed. There was such a case in 1883. A Mr. Perry, a Resident Magistrate in Ireland, had attended a meeting and read a proclamation suppressing it; but his conduct on the Bench was extremely fair, and he refused to convict on every petty charge brought before him by the police. Shortly afterwards he was turned out of the Resident Magistracy; but he has been re-appointed, I think, by the Tory Government, and sent to the most remote part of West Mayo—namely, Belmullet. Captain West was censured, too, because he would not do what was required of him by the police; and I need not refer to the case of Mr. Butler, who was sent to a remote portion of Kerry because he would not do the bidding of the Government. The Government deal with these 796 men who do not suit their views as ordinary men deal with their enemies—they give them no quarter whatever. These men are appointed by the Lord Lieutenant, and are dismissed at pleasure; the result is that they are in the same moral condition that Judges of England were in 200 or 300 years ago, who were dependent for their continuance in office upon the will of the King for the time being. we know exactly what the conduct of such Judges as Judge Jefferies was. If the condition of the Judges was so excessively corrupt, what must be the present condition of these officials who are dependent for their places upon the will of the Lord Lieutenant for the time being? It is a monstrous thing to propose that the liberties of the great body of the Irish people should be intrusted to such men. We know that under this clause inquiries will be constantly held, that Resident Magistrates will be sent about from place to place to hold inquiries, and that the whole country will be agitated, disturbed, and terrorized by these constant inquisitions; no such thing as personal safety or personal liberty existing in the country. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has been again harping on the depositions. He assumes, because the depositions are taken in private, that the Court of Inquiry should also take place in private. The only persons whoso depositions are taken in private are persons who know that they know something about the facts they are being examined upon; and they cannot be examined under the cognate clause in the law of Scotland, and compelled to give evidence to criminate themselves. In the present Bill there is no such safeguard. A man can be compelled to give evidence upon any question put to him; and when men have refused to answer questions, on the ground that it would criminate themselves, the magistrates have taken upon themselves to say that the answer they would give would not be of an incriminating character, and because the witnesses would not then answer, they have been committed for contempt of Court and kept in prison a month at a time. If that sort of thing can happen under the law as it stands, what would it be under a law that gave magistrates absolute power to put any question they liked 797 to witnesses, and that, not in open Court, but in a secret Court where a man may be intimidated —where those poor peasants may be frightened out of their lives by one of these military swashbucklers? We know the kind of men these Resident Magistrates are—these half-drunken swaggering botheens, the scorn of the people, and the most demoralizing influence in the country. We know who these gentlemen are—taken from the most demoralizing class which has afflicted the countries of Europe. I think we are bound at every stage of the discussion of this clause to resist as far as we possibly can the creation of a Statute which will place such absolute powers and such absolute discretion in the hands of the Resident Magistrates; and I think that if the Government have any real regard for personal liberty—and they are very fond of talking about the terrorism of the National League—they would not pass a law which will place such absolute power in the hands of irresponsible persons, but would give some security to people who are to be examined in Courts of Law that they shall not be compelled, under pain of imprisonment, to make statements which would criminate themselves, and lead to the conviction of their friends who were guilty of no crime at all.
§ MR. W. A. MACDONALD (Queen's Co., Ossory)
I believe no class of men could be chosen more incapable to discharge the important duty sought to be placed upon them by this clause than the Resident Magistrates of Ireland. And what is the reason of this? It is not that I believe that gentlemen who belong to the military profession are loss honourable, according to their code of honour, than barristers would be, but because I conceive that there is no kind of training in the world which can be given to men so unsuitable to make them civil magistrates as a military training. Now, have had personal experience of those gentlemen—not in the sense that I myself have suffered from them, which might be supposed by some hon. Gentlemen in this House to create in my mind a bias against them—but because I have been very closely associated with a case which was tried by one of those military Resident Magistrates, and at which I was present; and the circumstances were such that I 798 declare positively in this House that nothing would induce me to give evidence at a secret inquiry of this kind before these men. Now, I will briefly explain to the Committee my experience. Some years ago I was living in the South of Ireland, and there was a servant of mine who had been assaulted by a policeman. My servant was a Roman Catholic, and the policeman was a Protestant. I took a great deal of interest in the case because I believed the woman's statement, and I thought it was my duty to do all in my power to secure that justice should be done. Accordingly I engaged legal assistance for her, and did all I could to see that she obtained fair and just treatment. I went to the Court on the day that I supposed that the case would come on—the Petty Sessions Court of the place. That case did not come on, but a case somewhat connected with it did, and I am bound to say I was amazed by what I witnessed in that Court on that occasion. One of these military Resident Magistrates—I have no objection to give his name—it is Captain Hatchell—his name was road out in the list by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment—well, this gentleman placed himself in that Petty Sessions Court, with his back to the fire, and carried on the proceedings in the way that, I venture to say, would not for a moment be tolerated in an English Court. One man came forward as a witness. He had been a soldier—I happened to know something of the man. He gave his evidence exactly in the same way as he ordinarily expressed himself. There was nothing hard, nothing insulting or offensive in the man's manner at all; and this military Resident Magistrate actually threatened to send him to gaol if he would not give his evidence in what he was pleased to term "a more respectful manner." Altogether I was strongly impressed with the idea that it was absolutely impossible to obtain justice from this magistrate, and so firmly was I convinced of this that I wrote to a number of the ordinary Justices of the Peace in my neighbourhood, telling them generally of my want of confidence, and requesting them to come and see that justice would be done at the next meeting of the Court, when I knew this case would come on. I received a letter from one 799 of these magistrates, in which he stated that he had intended to be present, even if he had not received my letter, and that he regretted that I had been driven to make the application. Well, the next time the case did come on, and there was a full Bench of magistrates. Then the military gentleman of whom I have been speaking learned to behave himself, being restrained by the other Justices; and everything was done in an ordinary and Constitutional way, and the policeman was fined. The Resident Magistrate, however, showed his bias before the case was finally disposed of. He said—"I will not agree to that," when it was proposed by the other magistrates that costs should be given to my servant for the assault that had been committed upon her. I think anybody with a fair mind must have been pained when he heard the list read out by the hon. Gentleman who proposed the Amendment, when one after another of these Resident Magistrates were described as military men. "What do they know about law? What can they know about law? I say that generally they know nothing about the law, and still less about justice; and I say it is simply monstrous, if you will consider the character of the inquiry you propose to give them power to hold, and the duties you propose to impose upon them —it is simply monstrous that this power should be placed in their hands. Why, Sir, it is not a question of taking depositions. Surely some knowledge of the law is necessary if men are to be able to ask impertinent questions. Now, the proposal which has been made to us—which is called a concession on the part of the Government—is an utterly worthless and unsatisfactory concession. In fact, there is no concession at all. The Lord Chancellor, we are told, is to take care that this power is to be given to Resident Magistrates who have a knowledge of the law. But where will you find in the list that has been read out to us Resident Magistrates who possess a knowledge of the law? They do not possess it; and unless we have a distinct assurance and security from the Government that an entirely new class of Resident Magistrates will be created, in whom the Lord Chancellor can have confidence, because they possess a knowledge of the law, the concession of the Government will be absolutely futile. 800 Well, I wish to say that, in my judgment, a genuine concession in this matter is called for, not only from the point of view of the immediate interests of the Government, but on account of their ultimate interests, if they are to secure that this section is to be worked. Already the Government may have seen in this House ominous signs that should lead them to consider that probably this section will not be worked at all. Already we have heard that the word may be passed that no one in Ireland ought to give information at all at these tribunals. If this is done, what becomes of your law? And I consider that if you are sensible men, you will modify your clause in such a way that these objectionable features—which make it reasonable, and, as I think, right, that the people should be advised not to give evidence—will be removed, so that you may got the information which you require under this section. I will only say, in conclusion, that it is proposed by this Amendment to give this power to the Crown Solicitor—a man who has experience in examining witnesses before the County Court Judge. Now, is there any man of fair mind who really believes that this matter will be so well and so fairly done by a Resident Magistrate as it would be done by a Crown Solicitor in the presence of a County Court Judge? Why, the County Court would be a check on the Crown Solicitor if he asked questions not pertinent to the inquiry; and the County Court Judge is a man in whom the Government have special confidence. They have such confidence in him that they are absolutely going to put a Bankruptcy Clause in the Bill, which is now before the House of Lords, into his hands, to be worked by him. What does that mean? Why, it means this—that they believe that there is no authority in Ireland more generally respected than the County Court Judge; and I say, without fear of contradiction, that there is no authority in Ireland so little respected as the Resident Magistrates, whose characters I have attempted to describe to this House.
§ MR. EDWARD HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I desire to point out very briefly—as I believe this is a subject upon which many Members desire to speak—that there is no real guarantee in the provision of the right hon. Gen- 801 tleman. He says, as a substitute for what we ask, that the County Court Judge will be the tribunal before whom this secret inquiry will take place, and that we shall get a little later on a promise that the magistrates who will work this clause will be men in whose legal knowledge the Lord Lieutenant has sufficient confidence. But the legal knowledge of the Lord Chancellor himself might be called into account by some of my hon. Friends learned in the law. The Attorney General may be the king of hearts, and the Lord Chancellor may be the knave of spades, and so on. It gives us no guarantee at all; and I put it on a stronger basis when I say that out of 76 magistrates at present on the list you have 59 of them who, on their own showing, according to their own proud boast, are military men who do not know the law. Why these gentlemen would consider it a disgrace to their military training to know anything about the law. And even after you take these 59 gentlemen out, there is not one amongst them who has a practical acquaintance with the law. It is out of that residue that the Lord Chancellor has to appoint men of whose "legal knowledge" he shall be sufficiently assured. No doubt it is true that in a few instances you have appointed barristers to these positions, but in these cases you have appointed a paltry class of men who have been continually at the back-stairs of Dublin Castle—gentlemen who have not been able to make their living by honest effort, and who have been continually begging Members, night after night, in the Lobby of the House, for God's sake to get them something to do, Take the last appointment —Mr. Cecil Roche. How does he look upon his duty as a magistrate? Why, I know a case in which a young men's society held a meeting on a publican's premises, hung out a banner and created a disturbance. The publican came before this magistrate and gave evidence. He stated that he had asked these young men to take in the banner when the police called his attention to it. The banner was put out again unknown to him. For this offence Mr. Cecil Roche inflicted upon the man the full penalty of the law, notwithstanding that it was his first offence, and that he had hitherto borne an irreproachable character, and conducted his 802 house in a satisfactory manner, and notwithstanding also that he was ignorant of the offence committed. The magistrate who gave a decision of that exceptional severity was a short time afterwards called upon to decide a case where a young man, the son of a bailiff, who had been already 24 times in gaol, had stabbed a man in the street, and he inflicted a fine of 25s. upon him. I say that the people of Ireland cannot have an atom of confidence in such a man. Give us your half-pay captains, nay, give us half-pay corporals, in preference to such a man as that. When we use the expression half-pay captains, I should like, speaking for myself, and without consulting any of the Members of the Party to which I belong, I should like to ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to understand that we mean no reflection whatever upon gentlemen who have at any time served their country. We ourselves should be proud if the condition of the law in our country were such that if we had any military ability in us we might have an opportunity of exercising it. I say that we realize that there are many reasons which compel gentlemen to resign their military careers for private life, or for the civil service of their country. At the same time, there are a large number of these gentlemen who, as has been pointed out, being unable to advance themselves in the Army, or Navy, or Yeomanry, or Militia, while drawing from the State the half-pay they are entitled to, supplement it by being creatures of Dublin Castle. I made a challenge in a full House—though there were not so many Members present as there are now—and I now make the same challenge in Committee, and I hope I shall attract the attention of the two right hon. and learned Gentlemen putting their heads together over the way—on the subject of the latest case of the transfer of Resident Magistrates from one place to another —Mr. Butler, the brother of General Butler, who was removed from the county of Kerry. He was a man the Irish people have no reason to cherish a very warm affection for. He has done his duty strictly and severely. But we have always found that whenever he has had any duty to discharge, although his action has been characterized by severity, yet he has always shown a desire to ascertain the truth and to 803 harmonize his decrees with justice even when those decrees have gone against us. A number of men were brought before him charged with resisting the officers of the law in one of the houses that was burned at Glenbeigh. Will the Committee believe it, that these houses were burned down without the eviction being in one single instance legally carried out; and, therefore, as a matter of fact, the burning of those houses was an incendiary act? The Sheriff himself was not present, nor was the Sheriff's representative, but a young sprig of the aristocracy —the Sheriff's clerk—went and carried out this act upon his own authority. The Solicitor for the defence of these men charged with resisting the officers of the law—who was a gentleman—whose legal knowledge could not be questioned—placed this fact before the magistrates; and on a demurrer by the two legal gentlemen representing the Crown to plead anything but justification for that state of affairs, the magisstrates dismissed the ease against the prisoners. What did that decision mean? Why, that the evictions were illegal. What did the Government subsequently do? Remember that, when the magistrates gave their decision, the two solicitors representing the Crown gave no reason why the case should not be dismissed, either because they had no reason or would not condescend to give it. When asked for a reason, they said, in a defiant tone—"Your worships can do what you like," which I translate, "Your worships can dismiss the case if you dare." They did dismiss the case —two local magistrates. Mr. Butler was for the dismissal, Mr. Considine was not. The latter has been transferred to a place near his own property near Dublin, within easy reach of the fashion and comfort of the metropolis; whilst the other gentleman, Mr. Butler, has been sent to a dreary district in the wild part of the country. Mr. Butler was taken out of an easy district at a personal pecuniary loss of £200 a-year, and transferred to one of the most difficult districts in Ireland. I state that in the presence of a representative of Dublin Castle, and I ask, will he sit silently by while such an accusation is brought against it, however humble may be the individual who brings it. I charge them with having punished a 804 magistrate because he had acted according to his convictions and according to law; and I therefore ask them how can they expect us to withdraw this Amendment and rely upon their opinion of the sufficiency of the legal knowledge of those who have to administer the law? If I do not proceed further with this point it is not because I have not a number of instances which I could give to the Committee. I will mention another for the edification of the Committee. It is one that I have spoken about and written about frequently. It is an instance that took place in Kerry—a case that occurred before a gentleman brought from the North of Ireland, and who had never known the county before. The magistrate admitted to someone in the trial that they had marked a man for the purpose of making him inform against a number of others. I say I have spoken and written about these things, and yet the magistrate in question has never dared to contradict what I say. Two magistrates went into Tralee Gaol and brought this informer along, and the prisoner who was to be identified was put, as a matter of form, among three or four prisoners. In the first place, this man was a little taller than any of the others, and it would have been easy to know him for that reason alone. But to make assurance doubly sure, while passing the other men who were not in gaol for the same crime, it is alleged to me that the magistrates distinctly walked along the gravel, and when they reached the man they wished identified they walked on the grass. I have made that statement in the paper I conduct in the district. It was a libel, if not true; but yet no one has had the courage to proceed against me for it. A little later, however, one of the printers in my employ did a foolish thing, and these magistrates brought him up and gave him six months' imprisonment. The way these Acts are carried out in Ireland is a disgrace to Her Majesty's Government — these things were a disgrace during the Liberal Government — because the mainspring of all the evil action which takes place is Dublin Castle. We see that, in order to strengthen this system, another of the most notorious of the rack-renters of Ireland canonized and installed in Dublin Castle. I can see, in the remarks of the hon. and learned 805 Attorney General, nothing to make us waive our support to this Amendment.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I think we are justified in asking for some further assurance on this matter than we have yet had. We have a full knowledge of the Resident Magistrates in Ireland; we know the class from which they are drawn; we know their antecedents; we know their conduct in connection with the administration of the law; and, therefore, we strenuously support the Amendment which my hon. Friend the Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance) has put before the Committee. We wish to make it plain to the Committee why we require from the Government a larger and more satisfactory assurance in the direction in which this Amendment tends. A Return has been read by the hon. Member for South Kilkenny as to the number of Resident Magistrates in Ireland, their professions and their position. Out of 76 Resident Magistrates, we find that 59 are not lawyers at all; they are men who have had no connection whatever with the law in the past, no legal training, and who cannot be suggested to have judicial minds. It will not satisfy us, and it ought not to satisfy this Committee, that the Lord Chancellor should give his approval to all or any of these 59 Resident Magistrates, and therefore recommend them as competent to carry out this stringent clause. Out of 17 Resident Magistrates said to be lawyers, only a small number are men who have had any legal training whatever, and who are entitled to administer a law of this kind or deal with matters in which niceties of evidence are likely to arise. But I ask the attention of the Committee to a matter of which I have specific and particular knowledge. It is in connection with the Resident Magistrates in the County of Cork. I find that out of six Resident Magistrates in the County of Cork, two of these are half-pay officers — gentlemen who have served in the Army 21 years; that two of them are Constabulary Officers and that one is a barrister-at-law. But barrister-at-law in this case does not mean a practicing barrister. I ask the attention of the Committee particularly to the point that in the County of Cork not one of these six magistrates, to whom will be intrusted the administration of this very 806 important clause, is a man to whom English Members would willingly entrust in England the carrying out of a clause of this stringent and drastic character. We do not propose to carry the discussion on this Amendment further. We have given, and we have evidence to prove to the satisfaction of independent and unbiassed Members of the Committee, that there is a necessity for something in the direction in which this Amendment goes; and if the Government do not meet us, we know very well that the public in Ireland and in England will modify this clause in the direction of legality and justice.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 258; Noes 176: Majority 82.—(Div. List, No. 108.)
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
The Government having refused to accept the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance), it only remains to be seen whether we can carry out our object by another Amendment to which we ask the Government to agree. The Government have refused to inquire into the legal knowledge of the Resident Magistrates, and my object is to secure a court which in some measure will be fit to hold inquiry. The Resident Magistrates have no legal knowledge, and there is not half-a-dozen out of the whole 76 who would be considered by the Lord Chancellor as competent to conduct those inquiries. The Amendment I propose will not render the clause cumbersome in any way, our only object being to secure its proper administration. I insist and I press it on the Committee, that something is required for the protection of persons who are likely to come under the operation of the clause beyond what would be afforded by a Court of one Resident Magistrate; and I appeal to the Government to accept the Amendment which I now beg to move.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, after "a" to insert a "Court consisting of two or more." —(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOE IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
I think the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy) will see that this is an Amendment which cer- 807 tainly the Government cannot accept. There is no precedent whatever for requiring two magistrates to be present when such an inquiry is made, and there is no analogy to the proposal as far as I know of in any previous Act in which the provision for secret inquiry exists. To require that the Court should consist of two Resident Magistrates is to throw an enormous burden on the judicial forces at the disposal of the Crown. You not only require a magistrate in the Court of the district, but you require another magistrate not to assist, but to sit by and check him. I think it will be seen that this proposal of the hon. Member would not afford any safeguard or protection in the matter, and while it would be of no advantage in that direction, it would impose a great burden on those responsible for the administration of justice. I trust the hon. Member will not think it necessary to press his Amendment, and that he will allow the Committee to proceed at once to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H, Fowler). The Government have intimated their intention to accept that, and when it is disposed of we shall be in a position to proceed with the rest of the clause.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I think it will be well perhaps to adopt the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, and go on to the Amendment of the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton. For my part, I have no objection to that course being taken, but I urge the Government to say, that if we abandon this Amendment they will consider this most important point. Suppose a question is asked, and it is said not to be germane to the inquiry; suppose the magistrate says that it is, we ask if you will give us an appeal from the magistrate. If you will, we will abandon this Amendment. You have two Judges in the case of Election Petitions, and in every case of summary jurisdiction you have two magistrates who have to agree. I think nobody should be sent to gaol except on the warrant of two magistrates. If the point I have mentioned is conceded by the Government then our objections to the clause on this ground would be met. This is our object. We do not seek to provide that the inquiry should be conducted by two Resident Magistrates; 808 but we want to provide that the magistrate who sends a man to gaol shall not be the magistrate who conducts the inquiry. I trust the Government will agree to the Amendment I have myself placed upon the Paper to deal with this point. This is a different case from that of ordinary depositions. A man may be asked a question here which will commit him with reference to matters outside the inquiry; he may be asked questions as to whether his children go to school, the state of his banking account, whether he owns or rents land, and I contend that all these question are of a nature to which a witness should not be subjected. Let it be borne in mind also that a man may be committed to prison over and over again for refusing to answer questions wholly immaterial to the issue. For these reasons, I think that the decision of more than one magistrate should be had before a man is sent to prison under this clause.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
There is no necessity that this suggestion should be carried out. Under the existing law a man may be examined in private. He may be asked an improper question, and he might be committed, to prison for refusing to answer it. If he were committed, however, he has his remedy at law, and he has that remedy also under our Bill. We see no reason why that should not be a sufficient safeguard in dealing with this particular point of obtaining evidence, and we are reluctant to encumber the clause by introducing safeguards which are unnecessary.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman has not referred to my Amendment. The Magistrates' Protection Act gives absolute immunity to magistrates, however improper the questions asked may be. If the right hon. Gentleman will repeal, for purposes of this Act, the provisions of the Magistrates' Protection Act, then, of course, I will agree to the withdrawal of the Amendment. By the Act I have referred to the magistrates are protected in any amount of illegality they may commit. Of course, the Attorney General will tell us that that is not so; but if you bring an action against a magistrate, the Judge will rule that this is a matter for him and not for the jury to decide. I have an Amendment on 809 that point also; and if the right hon. Gentleman will accept that Amendment, or give some assurance of concession on the point to the Committee, we shall allow the matter to pass. But we have no remedy whatever, and no one knows that better than the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOE IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I do not agree altogether with the hon. and learned Gentleman as to the provisions of the Magistrates' Protection Act. It is only when a magistrate is acting within his jurisdiction that the Act affords protection to the magistrate.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
Will the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland say whether there is to be any record of questions put by the magistrates and refused to be answered, which will enable the High Court to express an opinion upon the question? Because, otherwise, a man would be helpless if he were committed for refusing to answer; and unless the commitment shows what it was he refused to answer, it would be impossible that he could raise the question at all. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) will permit me to add that there is a difference between taking a deposition under the ordinary law and this procedure. In the case of ordinary indictment magistrates may take depositions in their private rooms, the person against whom it is made being present with his solicitor. It is only the reporters and the public who may be excluded in the case of an indictable offence. Of course, where summary cases are taken in open Court under Statute the analogy does not hold. Unless some provisions are taken such as I have suggested, the man is absolutely defenceless against illegality.
§ MR. HOLMES
The Government are prepared to accept any reasonable Amendment, and there is one Amendment on the Paper which will meet the objections that have been raised on this point by providing that a shorthand note should be taken of everything which occurs in the examination. A similar Amendment was proposed in 1882; but it was not accepted, owing to the difficulty of providing shorthand 810 writers. Shorthand writers are now more numerous, and the Government will see their way to providing that there shall be a correct transcript of everything that occurs.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I quite admit the importance of the concession which the right hon. and learned Gentleman makes; but, unfortunately, I do not see that it is one which has a large bearing on the Amendment. I understand the action of the Court of Secret Inquiry would be that a witness is summoned before the Court; he considers that a question is improper and refuses to answer it, and then the power given by this section comes into force, and the witness may be committed. But what will happen is this—a witness is committed for contempt of Court; and, therefore, the Attorney General will see that the reasoning with which he endeavours to convince the Committee that this Amendment is needless does not really apply. As I understand the law, when a witness has been committed for contempt of Court the magistrate will make out a warrant; he will state in it that the witness has been asked a proper question and that he has refused to answer it, and that he is committed to gaol. I think that warrant will be conclusive, because no Court will be able to go behind it and investigate the statement, and in that way the witness will have no sort of defence whatever. It is all very well to say that you will allow the evidence to be taken down in shorthand; but what is the use of that if, when it is taken down, it will be of no value when application is made for the decision of a Court of Law? If I am right on this point I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland will admit that, as long as such a warrant as I have described remains in force, it will not be competent for the party against whom the warrant is made out to bring any action on account of the injury done to him. It is a principle of our Courts of Law that a poor man imprisoned under any legal process can bring an action in respect of any illegality in putting that provision into force. He must first set aside the order of the Court committing him to prison; and what I am pointing out is that as long as the warrant is regarded by the Court 811 as final and conclusive, it is quite idle for any purpose germane to tills Amendment to promise that the evidence shall be taken down in shorthand, because it would not be open to the party aggrieved to use that evidence in any superior Court for the purpose of inducing that Court to quash the warrant under which he is committed. I, therefore, submit to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland that his promise is not material to the question. We want that there should be some power of reviewing the action of Resident Magistrates under this clause; we want that there shall be a check on the action of the magistrate who commits a man to prison for refusing to answer any question put to him. Until a concession on that point is made I respectfully urge that the taking down of evidence in shorthand is simply delusive.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
The statement of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes), although very satisfactory, as far as it went, did not, in my opinion, meet the case, because if there is a warrant simply for committal for contempt no Court will go behind to examine what the contempt is. Therefore, it will be necessary for the Government that they should undertake that the warrant shall allege the specific offence of refusing to answer a particular question, such question being set out verbatim, and not the general offence of contempt.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I agree on the point of law with the hon. Member with regard to the superior Courts; but the argument does not apply to the warrant of an inferior Court, in which the specific grounds for its issue must be stated.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman provide that in the Act? If so, we will withdraw the Amendment. Can anything be fairer than that?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
The object of the Amend- 812 ment which I beg to move is to secure that the official responsible for seeing that the Act is carried out is a trained lawyer.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, after "magistrate," insert "of whose legal knowledge the Lord Chancellor shall be satisfied."—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
The Government are willing to accept the words of the Amendment that the Lord Chancellor shall be satisfied with the legal knowledge of the magistrate. I cannot, however, undertake that all the magistrates will be trained lawyers, as that would involve the question as to what constitutes a trained lawyer.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
How are we to understand that these persons are competent persons? If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will say these men will be either barristers or solicitors, I shall withdraw my opposition. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will not do that. It is by the refusal of these reasonable proposals that the debate is prolonged. What is the meaning of the term "a man of legal knowledge?" Is Captain Plunkett a man whose legal knowledge is to satisfy the Government? The term legal knowledge is very vague. Are we to have men who have proved their legal knowledge by examination? You cannot appoint a Civil Service writer at 10d. an hour who has not passed an examination. Are we to be told that the men who are to have power of unlimited imprisonment are to be men with whose legal knowledge the Lord Chancellor is satisfied, and no more? We know that the Lord Chancellor is a very civil man, and that he will not want to compel these men to undergo an examination. I ask the Committee whether it is not the fact that this Amendment has been met in form and refused in substance? Let the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland say, at least, that these shall be men who have at least been called to the Bar. It is not saying much of a man that he has been called to the Bar. I have been called to the Bar myself. I do not profess to have much legal knowledge, and my experience has been pretty much confined to 813 "eating the dinners;" but, however, let the Government provide that there shall be some smattering of the law in these men. If the Government will not, accept that proposal, it simply shows that in agreeing to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton they are keeping their promise to the ear and breaking it to our hopes.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
Knowledge of the law is not a matter of inspiration or revelation, and my contention is that the Lord Chancellor should be satisfied that the Resident Magistrate has had such an amount of legal training and acquired such an amount of legal knowledge as would render him competent for the discharge of his duties. I did not move my Amendment in the spirit in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has accepted it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to regard the qualification of legal knowledge as a purely perfunctory matter. I desire that the Resident Magistrate shall be a competent lawyer, such as the Lord Chancellor, in the discharge of his official duty, would be responsible to this House for appointing to carry out this important provision.
§ MR. ANDERSON (Elgin and Nairn)
The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) undoubtedly means that the person appointed shall possess legal qualification and experience; and I am certain that had the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for England (Sir Richard Webster) been present, he would not have dissented from the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) distinctly stated a short time ago that the Government accepted the Amendment, on page 16, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton. I confess that I was disarmed by what I thought to be a reasonable proposal of the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland on behalf of the Government. I read the words of the Amendment on the Paper in the sense given to them by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, and I think that no words can be clearer than those which say that the magistrate shall be 814 a person of whose legal knowledge the Lord Chancellor shall be satisfied. What can they mean except that the person appointed to discharge this duty is to have legal knowledge to the satisfaction of the Lord Chancellor? That, of course, means that he is to be a person of some legal qualification and legal experience, and it is perfectly surprising to hear the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland taking up the position which he now assumes. I should wish the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for England to be sent for, because I am sure that he would not agree with the course taken by the Government. I venture to think that this is another example of the surprising action of the Government, and I hope that some hon. Member will get up and ask the Government to state whether they mean what the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland says they moan, because, without the meaning which is attached to the Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton, this Amendment is of no use. I have here a Return, not yet printed, as to the legal qualifications of the Resident Magistrates. I will read a portion of it. Here is one gentleman, aged 28 when he obtained his appointment; former vocation none; salary £425, which is raised—perhaps for his extraordinary ability and knowledge of the law—to £550. Do the Government mean to say that when they accepted the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton they meant that the Lord Chancellor was to be satisfied with a person of that capacity? Another magistrate is on this list, whose qualification is that he has been an officer in the Grenadier Guards. I have known officers in the Guards—they are very charming persons; but I deny that they have any legal knowledge. Here is another gentleman, aged 39; he was a civil engineer and has served in the Militia. The hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) has stated that being called to the Bar and having eaten a, certain amount of dinners, is not a very substantial or good qualification; but that qualification would seem to be thought a very sufficient one, if I may judge from one of the entries in the Return from which I am reading. It is 815 stated of one Resident Magistrate—Mr. Considine—that he is 35 years of age, that he was High Sheriff of Limerick in 1881, and that he kept all his terms for the Bar, and, I suppose, ate all his dinners with great punctuality; but that, for family reasons, he was not called to the Bar, Well, it would be a very interesting inquiry to find out what the family or other reasons were why this gentleman was not called to the Bar, but became a Resident Magistrate at a salary from the State of £500 a-year. But, Sir, this is really turning a very serious matter into a burlesque. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant may smile, but you are really dealing with a serious matter. [Laughter.] I do not think the Government appreciates the seriousness of this enactment as they ought to do. You are going to hand over powers never dreamt of before to young gentlemen who, for family reasons, were not called to the Bar. Is that a thing that is fair or reasonable, or even decent? We heard last night a good deal from the Government as to the waste of time in the opposition to this Bill; but the persons who are wasting time now are the Government themselves. This is a question which should never have been raised by the Government. I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for England is here, and that we shall hear from him if he intends to stand by the Amendment in the sense in which it was originally understood to have been accepted by the Government?
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
When I heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite I was greatly astonished, because he attributed to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for England views which he never entertained. We discussed the question when we were going over the Amendments on the Paper. But I have since had an opportunity of consulting the hon. and learned Attorney General, and he says that he never used the words the right hon. Gentleman put into his mouth. He never thought of saying that these Resident Magistrates should be either barristers or solicitors. I am both disappointed and astonished at the manner in which this concession on the part of the Government has been re- 816 ceived. An Amendment was put on the Paper by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler). We accepted that Amendment, although no provision to the like effect was contained in the Act either of 1870 or 1882. We have put it into this Act for the first time, and have thus introduced into this measure a limitation never thought necessary by any previous Government. The hon. and learned Member for Elgin and Nairn (Mr. Anderson), however, talks as if the phrase "sufficiency of legal knowledge" was here used for the first time in Bills of this kind. But he has either not read the Act of 1882 or he forgets its provisions, for in that Act there was a clause requiring the Lord Lieutenant to certify the legal knowledge of one of the magistrates who was to exorcise jurisdiction with respect to charges of offences against that Bill. Well, how did Lord Spencer carry out the Crimes Act? Did he interpret that clause as meaning that one magistrate must be a barrister? He did not. I appeal to Gentlemen opposite who admire the manner in which Lord Spencer carried on the government of Ireland; and I would ask them to inquire either of Lord Spencer, or of any Gentleman there connected with the Government of Ireland, whether it was not then the fact, and is not the fact now, and has not always been the fact in Irish history that some of the best magistrates in Ireland have not been barristers or people who have gone through a legal training. And it is not unnatural that it should be so. It is easy enough to get barristers for £400 a-year to do your work. But it is not so easy to get a successful barrister, and the result is that if you insist on having barristers at salaries of £400 or £500 a-year, you will not get the pick of the profession, and, probably, you will not get such efficient men as if you look in other walks of life for men of sound sense, of a certain amount of legal knowledge, and of good character, Such men as these will carry out the work you want them to perform far better than the inefficient barristers you would secure at the salaries I have mentioned. I have now shown that the interpretation hon. Members opposite would put on the words of the Amendment is not that which was put by Lord 817 Spencer upon similar words in the Act of 1882; and that the construction which we put on those words is one to which we must adhere if the Act is to be properly worked by the magistrates of Ireland.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I should like to begin by an emphatic repudiation of the proposition that we are in any degree bound on this side of the House by the precedent of 1882.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I never said that the right hon. Gentleman was bound by the precedent of 1882. What I appealed to was the interpretation of that Act by Lord Spencer.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
But this Act is not going to be administered by Lord Spencer. And I will frankly confess that, even if it were, I am not sure that I should take a different line from that which I now take. I was not in the House at the time the Act of 1882 was passed. I hope that if I had been I should have objected to a great many clauses of that Act; but, be that as it may, I think the time has come when the Government must give the House some better argument in favour of their proposals than that this or that provision was in the Act of 1882. We maintain that the whole condition of Ireland and the circumstances with which we are dealing, are fundamentally different from what they were then. It cannot be denied that the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has explained the sense in which he has accepted the Amendment has taken the value out of his concession. I quite admit the difficulty of insisting that the gentleman to whom this power is given must be always a barrister or a solicitor. The mere fact of a gentleman being a barrister does not necessarily ensure to the Lord Lieutenant or the Lord Chancellor that he is possessed of legal knowledge and experience. I shall, therefore, propose—and I believe the right hon. Gentleman will assent to the Amendment—to insert "after legal knowledge" the words "and legal experience." The Amendment will then run—"Of whose legal knowledge and legal experience the Lord Chancellor shall be satisfied." I know that will still leave the proposal open to some objection, but I think it would, as 818 amended, prescribe an extra caution, and would give us an extra safeguard in these proceedings.
§ Amendment proposed to the said proposed Amendment to insert after "legal knowledge "the words" and legal experience."—[Mr. John Morley).
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman opposite has admitted that it would be extremely difficult, under all the circumstances, always to get a barrister or solicitor as the Resident Magistrate acting under this clause; and, indeed, that the fact of a gentleman being called to the Bar or being a solicitor, would be but a small guarantee of his possessing legal knowledge. Therefore, I understand he concedes that the Resident Magistrate might not be either a barrister or a solicitor. That was what I meant to convey, in order to prevent any misapprehension in the observations I made a short time ago; but I did not mean to convey that this clause should be dealt with in a perfunctory manner, or that the Lord Chancellor would dream of being satisfied with a person, unless he possessed real legal knowledge. It is very difficult for a person to possess legal knowledge without having legal experience, and that being so I see no objection to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. Therefore, I am ready to accept the Amendment; but if I had accepted the Amendment of the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) without giving the explanation that a Resident Magistrate acting under this clause need not be a barrister or a solicitor I should have misled the House.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
In page 1, line 8, after "magistrate" insert the words "being a person of the sufficiency of who3e legal knowledge and legal experience he shall be satisfied."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
The words of the Amendment are, "legal knowlege and experience." Does 819 that mean knowledge of the law, and experience of its practice? Will the Attorney General for Ireland accept the Amendment with that meaning? [After a pause.] The right hon. Gentleman does not answer.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOE IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I have answered the question frequently.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I should have proposed a previous Amendment on the Paper if I had not understood that there was to be a substantial concession with regard to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). I should have proposed that there should be associated with the Resident Magistrate a gentleman of legal knowledge. However, that is past and gone; and now we must take the Amendment as it stands. In the first instance, and as the Amendment first stood, I thought, after the remarks of the Attorney General for Ireland, that the supposed concession of the Government was no concession at all. I am glad to find that the Government have, however, accepted an Amendment upon the original Amendment; but still, even in its amended state, it is open to objection. It is quite possible and easy to find in Ireland gentlemen who are not barristers or solicitors, but who are, nevertheless, well acquainted with the practice of the law. Let me mention one—Mr. Huntley, of Cork, who might well be elevated to the Bench. Mr. Huntley is a man who has written on the practice of the Petty Sessions Court and of Justices of the Peace. He is a man of very high character, and would command general confidence. But I hold, at the same time, that the Government have it now in their power to promote from the ranks of the police such a man as Mr. Horn, who they will say possesses some knowledge of the practice of the law, and thereby they will fulfil the conditions of this Amendment. If they do not accept this Amendment in its entirety, we shall have a disagreeable state of affairs to meet—that of having this clause administered by certain officials like Captain Plunkett, and men of that stamp. I think, therefore, that it would be for the benefit of the Government if they accepted the Amend-it its entirety. [An hon. MEMBER: They 820 have.] Well, if they have, I have nothing further to say.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
After what has transpired, I think we can go on to another Amendment. I am not even now satisfied that this Amendment, as accepted by the Government, is more than a show on their part. But, so far as it goes, it is now clear; and, therefore, I think we may go on.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I rise to point out to the Government the necessity for reporting Progress. I am sure that even the most greedy of the Conservatives will be satisfied with the progress we have made, for we have swept away a whole page of Amendments. We had a very late night last night, and we are going to have an early, and perhaps an excited, Sitting tomorrow. And let it be recollected that we have made the progress I have mentioned in spite of a Motion made at the beginning of the evening by a Conservative Member. The Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) took up a great deal of time in the early part of the evening; but since then, and as I have said, in spite of that, the Committee have done a great deal of work, and made great progress, and therefore I hope that the Government will now consent to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Colonel Nolan.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (Lord JOHN MANNERS) (Leicestershire, E.)
The hon. and gallant Member says that we have made great progress. We have certainly made some progress; but some of the Amendments which stand immediately next on the Paper are almost consequential Amendments upon that to which we have just agreed. I should propose that we should proceed with those Amendments, and then we will agree to report Progress.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
On that understanding I will withdraw the Motion for reporting Progress.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
Of course, the two first Amendments 821 standing in my name immediately after the one we have just agreed to are disposed of by the discussion we have had. I, therefore, come to the third Amendment standing in my name, the wording of which I shall have to alter, having regard to the Amendments already accepted on the clause. I shall move it in this form— "And being a magistrate for the county or place in which such offence was committed." This, I think, will make the clause run grammatical. Now, I need not debate on the subject of that Amendment. The clause as it stands, without the Amendment, would enable the Government to select their Resident Magistrate from any part of Ireland. If an offence, for instance, were committed at Cork, they might send a magistrate from Belfast, or vice versâ. That would, I think, be very objectionable. There are Resident Magistrates in Ireland whom it might be convenient for the Government to send on a roving commission all over the country. But that would be a very inconvenient course for others than the Government. In moving this Amendment, I can refer to the precedent of the Crimes Act. Under the Crimes Act, a magistrate empowered to hold an inquiry under that Act was required to be a magistrate having jurisdiction in the place where the inquiry was held. And in the Criminal Code Bill introduced by the Government some years ago, the magistrate to hold an inquiry under the clause corresponding to this was required to be a magistrate having jurisdiction in the place where the inquiry was held. The Government will, I think, see that it would really be very inconvenient if they were to have the power to select any one of the staff of 80 Resident Magistrates and send him all over the country. If there is to be an inquiry of this kind, let it be held by a magistrate on the spot. Of course, there might be cases in which Members of the Government might say—"We cannot entrust this case to a Resident Magistrate on the spot because, having regard to the terms of the Amendments we have accepted, the magistrate must be competent in point of legal knowledge to hold an inquiry; but the Resident Magistrate on the spot is not a person with the sufficiency of whose legal knowledge the Lord Chancellor would be satisfied." But it must be remembered that a Resident 822 Magistrate has a general jurisdiction over half-a-dozen counties. There is hardly a single Resident Magistrate whose jurisdiction would be confined to a single county, and, therefore, no difficulty of that kind would arise because it is inconceivable that within the range of two or three counties over which the jurisdiction of a Resident Magistrate would extend, there should not be found a single magistrate of whose legal knowledge the Lord Chancellor would not be satisfied. I will therefore propose to amend the clause in the manner I have mentioned.
In page 1 fine 8 after "satisfied" insert the words—" and being a magistrate for the county or place in which such offence was committed." —(Mr. Maurice Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That these words be there inserted."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
The Amendment cannot be accepted. It is true that in the Act of 1882 the words "of the county or place" were inserted, but then there was not in that Act the qualification of a magistrate —in reference to the holding of an inquiry —which we have now introduced into this Bill. The Lord Chancellor will desire that one of these inquiries should be conducted by a magistrate possessing the best knowledge and the highest qualifications attainable; and for the purpose of securing that end it may be necessary to bring a magistrate from a distance. Considering the qualification for a magistrate conducting one of these inquiries, which we have inserted in the Bill, I do not think the choice of such a magistrate should be restricted.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I recollect Sir George Trevelyan stating, as Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, that it was the intention of the framers of the Crimes Act, that no person would be employed in a judicial inquiry under it who was not a person of legal knowledge. That was not a provision of the Act, but it was a pledge given by the Government of the day. Then in the Criminal Code Bill, which was proposed by a former Government, and went to a Grand Committee, it was provided that the magistrate holding one of these inquiries should be a magistrate having jurisdiction in the place where it is held. 823 And I attach considerable value to such a provision. A magistrate having jurisdiction in the place where the inquiry is held, would be less likely than a stranger to be influenced by outside stories. He would also be less likely to ride roughshod over the people than he would be if he did not live there or live amongst them. If a man lives in a county his great desire must needs be to get on well and without friction with the people by whom he is surrounded and with whom he mixes. He is less likely than a stranger to the district to be imposed on by the police, or to send people lightly to gaol merely as it is said, for the sake of example. Magistrates who live amongst the people of a district and ride to hounds there are anxious not to come too directly into collision with the people; and for my own part I would much rather have a magistrate who rides to hounds in the district where he has jurisdiction, than a magistrate who rides to hounds in some other district at a distance from it. I would not, however, advise my hon. Friend to go to a Division on this Amendment; but I trust that in view of the fact that the Criminal Code Bill of 1883 contained this provision the Government will keep it in view, and act as far as possible in accordance with it.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 10, after "may," insert "if he so think fit."—(Mr. Marum.)
§ Question, "That these words be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again,"—(Mr. T. M. Healy,)—put, and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.
§ QUARRIES (re-committed) BILL.—[BILL 239.]
§ (Mr. Thomas Blake, Mr. Conybeare, Mr. Hurt, Mr. Cobb, Mr. Abraham (Glamorgan).)