HC Deb 18 June 1888 vol 327 cc419-21
MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire)

(for Dr. R. MACDONALD) (Ross and Cromarty) asked the Lord Advocate, Whether it is true that a person named Neil O'Hare, agent for a firm of Glasgow hide merchants, and well known for many years in the Western Highlands and Islands, was lately apprehended by the police in the parish of Lochalsh, and conveyed to a cell in the prison of Portree, and there detained from Saturday 2nd to Monday 4th June current, notwithstanding substantial bail being offered for his appearance by friends to whom he was well known; whether O'Hare repeatedly protested his innocence of any crime, and asserted that the police were mistaken in apprehending and detaining him if they were really in search of some accused person; whether on the Monday night O'Hare was discharged, without apology or explanation, other than he had been taken for a person of the same name accused of committing some offence in another county; and, whether, seeing O'Hare was a well-known and law-abiding person for whom bail was tendered, he, the Lord Advocate, will take such steps as may be necessary to prevent such conduct on the part of the police in the future, and cause Neil O'Hare to be properly compensated?

THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. H. A. MACDONALD) (Edinburgh and St. Andrew's Universities)

It is the fact that a person of the name given was apprehended by the Skye police, at the instance of the Argyllshire authorities, at Tobermory. He unfortunately bore the same name, and was engaged in the same class of work in the same part of the country, as a man against whom a charge of serious crime was laid in Argyllshire. He was brought to Portree, and a full description of him was at once telegraphed to Tobermory, the Police Inspector making arrangements to keep the wire open after hours that night, so that the authorities at Tobermory might communicate without delay. Instructions came that night to send him in custody to Tobermory on the following Monday. It appeared from a letter found on the man that his wife lived in Ireland, and the Inspector telegraphed this fact to Tobermory. The Procurator Fiscal at Tobermory telegraphed on Monday morning to say that the wife of the man wanted had been ascertained not to live in Ireland, but at Oban, that he thought there must be a mistake, and that O'Hare should be liberated. He mentioned in the telegram a point of personal description which might be a good test; and the Inspector, on examination, found that the man in custody did not answer to it. On this being communicated the man was at once liberated. O'Hare, and a man believed to be his brother, did ask whether he could be admitted to bail; but was correctly informed by the Inspector that he had no power to do so. The question of bail could not, by law, be considered until he had been brought before a magistrate having jurisdiction in the place of the alleged crime. The Inspector, on liberating O'Hare, expressed to him his sincere regret that in doing his duty he had been compelled to detain him, and at the annoyance to which O'Hare had been subjected by the mistake of identity. I do not consider that the Inspector was to blame in the circumstances. He appears to have taken every step possible to prevent any delay in clearing up the matter, and to have O'Hare released if he were not the right man. It is not in my power to order any compensation to be made to O'Hare; but I think it right publicly in this House to express the regret of the authorities at an occurrence which is one of those that, unfortunately, must take place occasionally, even in the most careful conduct of duties of criminal prosecutions.