HC Deb 29 November 1888 vol 331 cc517-9
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether the prosecution of the men who have now been convicted of the Edlingham burglary was conducted or watched by himself, or by the Director of Criminal Prosecutions; whether the law of England admits of evidence being led and a case tried out when the prisoners plead guilty; and, if so, whether, having regard to the peculiar circumstances of this case and its great public interest, the prosecution pressed that the trial should go on or acquiesced in stopping at the plea of guilty, and so avoiding any judicial inquiry; whether the prosecution, in fact, compromised the case by accepting the plea of guilty of burglary only, and did not lead evidence to show that the persons who committed the burglary committed still graver offences, as shown at the former trial, when Branaghan and Murphy were convicted of the more heinous offences; and, whether any steps can be taken to prevent a similar avoidance of a judicial inquiry in such cases?


The prosecution of the men in question was conducted by the Director of Criminal Prosecutions and by counsel nominated by me. The law of England does not permit of a case being tried out when a plea of guilty is persisted in. I believe that Branaghan and Murphy were convicted of burglary and of shooting with intent to murder. There was no sufficient evidence, either from the confession or otherwise, to justify the charge of shooting with intent to murder being pressed. The punishment inflicted would have been the same in both cases.


asked, whether the Attorney General was aware that evidence was given before the magistrate as to shooting with intent to murder?


Of course, I cannot tell what information was communicated to the hon. Gentleman; but neither in the confession, nor from the evidence submitted to the Public Prosecutor, was there sufficient evidence of shooting with intent to murder.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

asked, whether the hon. and learned Gentleman had any objection to lay on the Table the information which was in the hands of the Public Prosecutor as to this case? because he would have observed that these men were allowed to plead guilty of a minor offence.


The hon. and learned Gentleman is entirely misinformed. In the first place, he suggested—I am sure quite unintentionally—that the plea of guilty to the minor offence was put in by arrangement with the Public Prosecutor. That is entirely without foundation. Until the trial, the Public Prosecutor did not know what plea the prisoners would plead. A special plea was put in by Mr. Digby Seymour, who defended. With regard to the other matter, the previous prisoners were tried and convicted of both offences.


asked, whether the hon. and learned Gentleman could state whether the police who gave evidence in the former case, as to shooting with intent to murder, were produced in this case?


The evidence as to shooting with intent to murder depended, not so much upon the police evidence, as upon the evidence of persons in the house, and also upon circumstantial evidence which was not forthcoming. The learned Judge expressed the opinion that the conduct of counsel for the prosecution in not pressing the charge of shooting with intent to murder was perfectly right.