§ Mr. SEXTON
, Member for West Belfast, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House, for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the maladministration of the Law, and misconduct and violence of the Irish Executive in the case of Dr. Tanner, a Member of the House connected with the recent trial; but the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. Speaker called on those Members who supported the Motion to rise in their places, and not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen in their places—
§ MR. SEXTON
Sir, I hope to state very briefly the facts which appear to me to make it my imperative duty to ask the immediate judgment of the House upon the treatment of Dr. Tanner by the Irish Executive. Sir, in the notice which I have placed in your hands, I refer to the fact that Dr. Tanner is a Member of this House. I have done so advisedly, because I believe it is in consequence of the fact that Dr. Tanner is a Member of this House, and because of his action in that capacity, that he has been singled out by certain obscure and vindictive Irish officials, confident of impunity, for persecution and for insult. The House is aware that Dr. Tanner has recently completed a sentence of three months' imprisonment for a speech delivered at a Cork meeting, and in virtue of a sentence inflicted on him by a Coercion Court. While suffering that term the fresh charge was brought against him of having assaulted an officer of police—an assault which, whatever its character, was not an assault of violence, or one that ought to have been 79 brought under the Crimes Act before a Coercion Court. My hon. Friend, however, was brought before two "removable" gentlemen, the paid servants of the Executive, one of them a near relative of a well-known Irish Conservative landlord and politician, and the other a gentleman who has qualified in India for service as a Magistrate in Ireland. Mr. Healy, the Member for North Longford, was counsel for Dr. Tanner on that occasion. However hon. Members may differ from Mr. Healy, they will admit that he invariably acts from a high sense of public duty. At the bearing Mr. Healy seems to" have made some observations against these two Magistrates, who seem to be somewhat peppery gentlemen, and they felt it to be their duty to take notice of them by removing him from the Court by force. Dr. Tanner was thus deprived of the services of his counsel. The case was adjourned from time to time—I can suppose for no other reason than that the sentence for the assault should not run concurrently with the other—and eventually Dr. Tanner's imprisonment for the speech expired. He bad no sooner returned to his duties in this House than he received two urgent telegrams from the Crown Solicitor (Mr. George Bolton), who, having been relieved of his prolonged functions in regard to Mr. Soames, was at leisure to devote himself to the case of Dr. Tanner. The telegrams called upon my hon. Friend to appear in the Court at Tipperary. My hon. Friend, being without the assistance of counsel or solicitor, delivered a speech to the Court in his own defence, in which, in regard to the charge itself—an assault of a very objectionable kind—he declared the charge to be mean, infamous, and a lie. He said that the mere fact of being brought into Court upon such a charge gave him more moral torture than a sentence of 20 years' imprisonment. [A laugh.] I expected that sneer from the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson)—it was characteristic of him; but I would appeal to the House whether Dr. Tanner is not one of the last men, in the House or out of it, to deny upon any occasion any word he has uttered or any act he has done? ["Hear, hear," from Colonel SAUNDERSON.] I thank the hon. and gallant Member for that assent. Dr. 80 Tanner, therefore, would never have declared this charge against him to be mean, infamous, and a lie if he had conceived there was any foundation for it. The Court, the moral competence of which to try the hon. Member I deny, nevertheless convicted him and sentenced him to a month's imprisonment with hard labour. That was a vindictive and cowardly sentence. Three times Dr. Tanner asked for such a sentence as would allow him to appeal, and three times he was refused. The Magistrates persisted in imposing a sentence which would permit of no appeal, and then added to it the indignity and torture of hard labour. It is high time for this House to intervene between the obscure kind of official subordinates in Ireland and the Irish Representatives in this House. All the time these Magistrates had another sentence up their sleeve. Dr. Tanner felt himself debarred, from a feeling of self-respect, from calling evidence in his behalf, and contented himself with denying the charge of assault, and I respectfully ask the House whether these two magisterial functionaries, if they had been inspired by a single spark of true magisterial spirit, would not have felt themselves under an obligation to allow a man whom they had deprived of his counsel and solicitor to appeal to another Court? Why is it that these servile agents of the Government should be afraid of the County Court Judge of Tipperary? Is he a gentleman they could not trust? At any rate, the appeal was refused, although imprisonment with hard labour had been inflicted on a Member of Parliament. I challenge contradiction when I say that to refuse Dr. Tanner an opportunity of bringing the case before a higher tribunal was a magisterial denial of justice. Repeated instances have been brought before me in recent days to show the growing and passionate hatred which many of these functionaries feel towards Members of this House in consequence of our action here. Let me remind the House of the fact that when the Crimes Act was being passed the Chief Secretary stated that there would be an appeal from the Magistrates in every case in which it was desired. Even if there had not been such a statement made, if it were not the well-known general intention of the law, I ask was this not 81 signally and exceptionally a case in which the defendant, having been debarred from offering his defence before the Magistrates, ought to have had an opportunity of presenting his defence to an independent member of the judiciary? Dr. Tanner made a speech in his own defence, in which he expressed his convictions with regard to the Court with energy and without reserve. Perhaps the most frank course to pursue would be to read the speech of the hon. Member. Dr. Tanner said:—He would not insult any gentleman by asking him to come forward on the Table to give evidence for the defence. But the people of Tipperary knew him, the people of the country knew him. The present case had been known in England, had been talked of in the House of Commons. His character as a gentleman had been sought to be injured. Now, putting aside all heat, putting aside all bitterness, he asked in the judgment of all honest, fair-minded men, was the present case brought forward in a fair way? First of all, he impugned the jurisdiction of the Court altogether, and when he consented to employ a counsel or a solicitor he did so against his own wishes, and because he did not wish that other men, his poorer friends, would be deprived of that assistance to which they are entitled. In the hearts and minds of the Magistrates on the Bench they knew what he and others were tried for—for adherence to the cause of the country—for standing by the oppressed and the persecuted; for sustaining the poor and the weak.Then he went on to say:—We seek liberty, and we are determined to have it. We are prouder of the gaol in the struggle in which we are engaged than the toga of distinction and prominence and place and all the power that a Government—the present Government—can bestow. He was brought before the Court on a charge that put him to more pain and torture than if he were sent to prison for twenty years. The charge was mean, infamous, and a lie.Dr. Tanner concluded:—You deprived me of the assistance of my counsel, and if I were a free man I should impeach your conduct before the House of Commons. I would put you on your trial before the whole country, and would confidently look to their verdict on your conduct. Do not think for a moment that I submit to your Court. I have nothing to fear. I feel for you. I pity you—for the position you are forced into. It is humiliating, but it is the effect of the British administration in the land which we intend to rule. This prosecution has been gone into because I am an Irish patriot Protestant, and it has been sought to defame and traduce me. Pass your sentence, I defy you. I defy the Government which seeks to rob the people—to help the strong against the weak, and to oppress the Buffering.82 [Mr. WINTERBOTHAM: Is that all?] I am not surprised at the question. That was the speech delivered in Court by my hon. Friend, and I ask hon. Members whether, considering that this Gentleman laboured under a keen and exasperated sense of wrong, there was anything extraordinary in the use of that language? The Magistrates did not act with precipitancy. The Magistrates retired and deliberated for 20 minutes. At the end of 20 minutes they came into Court, and the Chairman, having first delivered their sentence on the charge of assault, went on to say that Dr. Tanner was to find bail for £200 for his good behaviour, or go to prison for three months. When they made that order, the Magistrates well knew that Dr. Tanner would refuse to find bail. What was the offence committed? A little while ago I asked a clear question on that point, and I now press for a specific answer. Was the offence that of contempt of Court or not? I find the offence described in the letter addressed by the Magistrates to Mr. Speaker, and read to the House yesterday. It is that "C. K. Tanner had outrageously misbehaved, and wilfully insulted the Magistrates." I turn to the Act which regulates the proceedings in Petty and Quarter Sessions, and I find it enacts that if any person wilfully insults—the very language used in describing the charge—any Justice or Justices sitting in any Court, or shall commit any other contempt of Court, it shall be lawful for the Justice or Justices to direct such person to be removed or taken into custody, and, at any time before the rising of the Court, by warrant to commit such person to gaol for any period not exceeding seven days, or to fine such person any sum not exceeding 40s. There is not the remotest reference or hint to any other jurisdiction. The Solicitor General for Ireland suggested that there was an alternative jurisdiction; but I challenge him to cite a case, since the passing of that Act, in which the members of a Court of Justice showed by action or argument that they had any other jurisdiction except under the Act. The charge must have been one of contempt of Court. If it had been anything else, it would have been necessary that it should have been brought before the Court and evidence given upon it. The language of the 83 clause I have cited is clear, and the Magistrates were bound to take one of two courses—either to impose a fine or to commit to prison for some period not exceeding seven days. The argument that the Magistrates were entitled to fallback on some general jurisdiction and inflict the punishment of imprisonment for three months is untenable and absurd. As to the sentence of a month's imprisonment with hard labour for the assault, I believe that if I had the opportunity of consulting my hon. Friend (Dr. Tanner) he would not allow me to suggest that it should be modified. I therefore simply denounce that sentence as a vindictive and cowardly outrage. But with regard to the sentence for contempt of Court, I do ask that the Government should use their power and act on their duty to cancel that sentence, and to inform these blundering subordinates of theirs that they are bound to keep within the law. Then, again, why was the prison van used for Dr. Tanner alone? The prison van at Clonmel has been almost as long unused as some of the relics in the Tower of London. It is not even used for convicts. It was used for Dr. Tanner only. The officer of police whom Dr. Tanner was alleged to have assaulted was the officer in command of the police at this very place. This man had had his revenge through the law, but he was allowed to have a further revenge. He was the person who requisitioned the prison van. When I brought this question forward a little while ago, the Chief Secretary scarcely ventured to defend what has been done, but suggested that two other Members of Parliament had refused to enter an open break. I am informed the right hon. Gentleman is wrong in respect to one of them; but, whether he is right or wrong, is that any person for inflicting degradation and insult on Dr. Tanner? I contend that the persons who brought the prison van to the Court did so because they knew that Dr. Tanner would refuse to enter it, because he had done so before. I submit that the authorities have been guilty of an act of mean and cruel tyranny. When Dr. Tanner refused to enter the van he was thrown upon the floor with force and violence, and the telegram to which I referred at the opening of the Debate I 84 received from Mrs. Tanner. I have today received this telegram:—Dr. Tanner is suffering from the effects of a fall from the car in which he was being conveyed to the Court House on Monday, and by which his arm was bruised. He has since suffered from sleeplessness, and altogether his system has received a severe shock.That is, I think, an appeal which ought to command the sympathy of hon. Members without distinction of Party. It is one which it is impossible for the Government and for hon. Members opposite to resist, and which, I think, amply justifies the Motion which I am about to make. I think that I have proved the case I have laid before the House—namely, that Dr. Tanner has been subjected to unnecessary and wanton violence, that the first sentence passed on him was vindictive and cowardly, and that the sentence which has been passed upon him of three months' imprisonment for an alleged contempt of Court is manifestly illegal. I regret the absence on this occasion of the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, who has recently described the policy of the Irish police as a policy of exasperation. I am sure many hon. Members share the feelings which prompted that speech, and I hope they will remember that every day brings us nearer to the time when the judgment of the nation will be asked on this excess of tyranny, persecution, and insult. I hope that hon. Members opposite will acquit themselves of all share in this cruel and unmanly violence which has been used towards Dr. Tanner, and of this lawlessness on the part of the servants of the law in Ireland, who now shelter themselves under the shield of the law. I beg to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ The Chairman of Ways and Means, at the request of Mr. Speaker, took the Chair as Deputy Speaker, in pursuance of Standing Order No. 1.
§ * THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN,) Dublin University
I noticed in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just just sat down that he did not for a a moment deny that if the hon. Member in question had been guilty of 85 the conduct which has been imputed to him he was guilty of a grave offence and ought to receive due punishment. I do not think that in the circumstances of the case, if the hon. Member was guilty of such a grave offence as that which is imputed to him, any one would be justified in asserting that he has been the object of a vindictive sentence. I come now to the circumstances to which the right hon. Gentleman called the attention of the House—namely, the circumstances under which the sentence was pronounced. I do not think hon. Members will deny that an assault of this nature upon a public officer in the discharge of his duty is a grave offence. It is said that Dr. Tanner was deprived of the assistance of his counsel; but, as a matter of fact, the hon. Member has been represented throughout the trial by his solicitor, who raised points of law in his favour. There was, moreover, no reason why the hon. Member should not at the adjournment have been represented by another counsel.
§ MR. SEXTON
At the opening of the proceedings his counsel retired, and I do not know that Dr. Tanner could have been represented by another counsel after his first counsel had been expelled the Court.
§ * MR. MADDEN
The expulsion of counsel had taken place long antecedently, and after that a solicitor appeared in Court on behalf of the hon. Member. It is said that the Court found Dr. Tanner guilty without hearing evidence on his behalf. What are the facts? What really occurred was this. The case was clearly proved by the evidence of the Inspector of Police and of the constables. A witness was called on the part of the hon. Member, and be admitted that the assault with which the hon. Member was charged might have been committed without his seeing it. Then the case was adjourned till the 26th July, and when the hearing was resumed the hon. Member deliberately declined to call any further evidence, on the ground that he would not subject his witnesses to the indignity of being examined before the Court. In these circumstances, the Court had no course open to them but to act on clear and un-impeached evidence, which was not broken down in cross-examination, and to convict the hon. Member. It ought 86 not to be suggested for one moment, that because an accused person, even if he be a Member of Parliament, refuses to produce evidence on the ground that he would not subject his witnesses to the indignity of appearing before the Court, the Magistrates are not to act on the testimony before them. It appears to be assumed by hon. Members opposite that what occurred gave the hon. Member a right of appeal, although the law provides in the case of such a sentence no such right of appeal. It would be absurd to allow any person charged to obtain a right of appeal merely by refusing to call witnesses on his own behalf. The right hon. Gentleman has read from a report of what took place in Cork, but I will refer to a report in the Times, which supplies, omissions in the account already read From that it appears that the Magistrates were of opinion that the action of the hon. Member amounted to an outrageous insult to the Court. The hon. Member said that the Magistrates who tried him had the sentence in their pockets, and he openly defied the Court to do their worst.
§ MR. MADDEN
Hon. Members ask is that all? It is all, and I think it fully justifies the language used by the Magistrates. A question has been asked by the right hon. Gentleman as to what power Magistrates had for punishing misbehaviour in their presence. I will refer to the highest authority on the subject (Burn's Justice of the Peace), which lays it down that a man can be bound over to be of good behaviour for speaking words of contempt to inferior Magistrates, Justices of the Peace, or Mayors. To speak words of contempt to Magistrates, even though not engaged in the discharge of their duties, is good ground for causing a person to be bound over to be of good behaviour. Contemptuous language to those intrusted with the administration of justice being "a proper matter for taking sureties for good behaviour," the question then arises whether the discretion of the Magistrates was properly exercised in this case. The right hon. Gentleman relies on the Petty Sessions Act as showing that the Magistrates had no jurisdiction in this matter. That Act makes it lawful for Justices to commit persons to prison for 87 seven days for contempt of Court. It has been argued that that Act ousts the ordinary jurisdiction of the Magistrates to order persons misbehaving in their presence to find sureties to keep the peace. I do not intend to argue this question, because it is perfectly open to the hon. Member to go to the proper tribunal to have the question decided.
§ * MR. MADDEN
Yes, because the original sentence is unaffected by this question, but as regards the additional sentence its validity can readily be determined. The right hon. Gentleman says that the second sentence must have been for contempt of Court, because there was no formulated charge. That is not so, for Justices may exercise the jurisdiction of requiring sureties for good behaviour for what is done in their presence. By ordering the defendant to give sureties for good behaviour the Magistrates adopted a more lenient course than by imposing the statutory penalty. For if the hon. Member gives the required security, he need not go to gaol for a day. I repeat that if there is any desire to test the validity of the second sentence it is open to the hon. Member and his Friends to have the point decided by a competent Court having jurisdiction in the matter.
§ * MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
There are in this case two distinct trials, two distinct convictions, and two distinct punishments. The Solicitor General for Ireland, with that ability with which we are so familiar, has very cleverly mixed up two things and has endeavoured to prejudice the consideration of one by a defence of the other. I, for one, hold that it is a very serious thing to send a Member of Parliament to prison; and the noble Lord the Member for Paddington, who is a marvellously acute observer of public opinion, has discovered, what the Chief Secretary has not yet discovered, that sending Members of Parliament to prison is not popular with the constituencies of the United Kingdom. When a Member sent to prison happens to be a prominent and, if you like, a disagreeable political opponent, whose absence from the House may be desired by many sections of it, it behoves the House to scrutinise such a case with the greatest 88 jealousy and impartiality. We ought to regard the case of the hon. Member for Cork in the same light and deal with it on precisely the same principles as we should apply to the case of any Gentleman sitting on either Front Bench. The Solicitor General in dealing with the first sentence has objected to its being called vindictive; but it must be borne in mind that an offence against the Crimes Act, against the present administration of affairs in Ireland, had been already committed, and Dr. Tanner had been punished for it. The second offence, this alleged assault on the police, arose entirely out of the first offence and cannot be severed from it. The Solicitor General said it was an outrageous and disgraceful offence. The hon. Member for Cork agrees in that view, for he avers he would sooner have suffered a long term of imprisonment than have been so accused. It is to him torture to be charged with such a vulgar and disgraceful act. But, after all, this second offence was not in the nature of an outrage tending to a breach of the peace; it was not an assault in which a policeman's head had been broken open; still, it was a very offensive assault upon the police, and whoever committed it ought to have been punished. What we are complaining of is, not that the offence was too severely punished if it was committed, but that the hon. Member for Cork was deprived entirely of two safeguards to which every Englishman is entitled—I say Englishman, and expressly exclude Irishmen. An Englishman is entitled to be represented by counsel; and no English Judge, from the Lord Chief Justice downwards, would have excluded the hon. Member for Longford for what he said on that occasion. A Judge would have remonstrated and reproved, but he would not so far have forgotten his high station and what is proper to the administration of justice as to deprive a defendant of legal advice on account of an unseemly conflict between the Bench and the Bar. Thus, in the first place, the hon. Member was deprived of his right of legal advice. Secondly, Dr. Tanner was deprived of his right of appeal. The Solicitor General says that this was a proper case to be brought under the Crimes Act. Every case in Ireland is now considered to be so. I presume that if a man committed bigamy 89 they wouid try him under the Crimes Act for that offence. Listening to the Solicitor General, one would have thought that the offence of assault on the police was created by the Crimes Act, whereas it is one of the oldest offences known to the law and is punishable under statute. Why on earth, except in wanton disregard of the rights of the Irish people in the administration of justice, the law officers of the Crown should have sanctioned such an absurdity as a proceeding under the Crimes Act for an assault on a policeman in the discharge of his duty I am utterly unable to fathom. If proceedings are taken under the Crimes Act, then we must take the Crimes Act with all its concomitants. We must remember, and we shall never forget, that the Chief Secretary pledged himself over and over again that any one charged under the Act should have a right of appeal. This was a solemn pledge given on behalf of the Government by the Minister in charge of the Bill when it was under discussion in this House, and the right hon. Gentleman will be reminded over and over again of this breach of faith on his part. Perhaps it may be said that he did not mean that pledge to apply to little trumpery cases; but this not a trumpery case; it is the case of a Member of Parliament charged with a disgusting and improper offence, of which he maintains his innocence. Dr. Tanner thought—and I do not hesitate to say I think so too—that he could not have a fair trial before these two Magistrates. Dr. Tanner claimed a right of appeal, and they could have given him an appeal by sentencing him to 32 days' imprisonment; but they imprisoned him for only 31 days. The Solicitor General says the record of appeals was not encouraging. I do not think this appeal would have been heard in Donegal, where a Government pamphleteer has been rewarded by being made a County Court Judge; but this case raises only a question of fact, although the Solicitor General has accepted the finding of the Court on ex parte evidence when the counsel for the prisoner was excluded. My point is this: The sentence was vindictive because it was pronounced after an unfair trial, and because it was one day too short to entitle the prisoner to an appeal. I now come to the other 90 part of the case—the observations indulged in by the hon. Member for Cork. I admit that the hon. Member indulged in some very free observations which were not very respectful to the Bench. I was not surprised when the Solicitor General read his version of what occurred that hon. Members exclaimed, "Is that all!" It seems extraordinary to have sent a man to prison for three months because he had violated the decencies of the Court by these exclamations. But after all what did Dr. Tanner say? He said he would not subject his witnesses to the indignity of appearing before the Court; and he was quite right. His counsel had been sent away, and he would have been a silly man if he had called his witnesses. Next he said that the Magistrates had got his sentence in their pockets. I will admit that that was a very rude remark; but I have no doubt what he meant was that they had made up their minds as to the sentence they would inflict. Prisoners sometimes say extraordinary things in England; but Judges do not send the offender to prison for three months for such language. A short time ago an amateur lawyer, promoted to judicial functions in Trinidad, sentenced a man to 31 lashes and penal servitude for life for attempting to assault him in Court; but the Colonial Secretary not only annulled the absurd sentence, but remitted a sentence of seven years' penal servitude, which the man richly deserved, for an offence he had committed, and warned the Judge that if such conduct were repeated he would be removed from his office. Then Dr. Tanner said "Do your worst; I defy you." For these foolish remarks Dr. Tanner was sent to prison for three calendar months. The hon. and learned Gentleman will no doubt tell us that Dr. Tanner would not have been sentenced if he had found sureties. Of course he would not find sureties; it would have been unworthy of him as a man to have done so. The Solicitor General has told us that there is a power some centuries old which enables Magistrates to require persons to find sureties if they have been guilty of outrageous conduct in Court. This is not quite so clear as the Solicitor General for Ireland thinks. I am not going to presume to argue a legal point with him, especially as that will come for judgment before the proper 91 tribunal; but I may remind him that a recent judgment of the Lord Chief Justice of England creates considerable doubt whether the law compelling a man to find sureties can be put in force except on the oath of somebody that he is in positive danger from the prisoner under the circumstances of the case. But I will not go into that. But this question has been before the Law Officers. My impression is that you have prisons in Ireland which you have not in England. Sir Frederick Pollock and Sir William Follett years ago, when Law Officers, advised that Justices of the Peace have no power to commit for contempt. After that opinion comes legislation, and what says legislation? It says, "And if any person shall wilfully insult any Justice," and this covers the case of the hon. Member for Mid Cork, for, put the highest construction you like upon his conduct, put every aggravation into his words, I say they amount to nothing more or less than wilful insult. It is not treason, it is not felony, it is not flat burglary, it is wilful insult he committed. I admit for the moment he is guilty of wilfully insulting the Court. What says legislation? "If any person shall wilfully insult any Justice or Justices so sitting in any such Court—that is, Petty Sessions—or commit any other contempt of any such Court"—and surely this conduct was either wilful insult or contempt of Court—"it shall be lawful for such Justice or Justices by verbal order to direct such person to be removed from the Court, or to be taken into custody, and at any time before the rising of the Court by warrant to commit such person to gaol for a period not exceeding seven days. Now, I say there is the offence, and there is the punishment, and I say it is a gross violation of the principles of justice—I might say a gross violation of the privileges of this House—that these Magistrates in Ireland, "of whose legal knowledge the Lord Lieutenant has satisfied himself"—these Magistrates—supporters of the Government and politically hostile to this gentleman—should dig out of the musty recesses of three centuries an obscure power and send this man to prison for three months. Such is the case before the House. Many times I have known the Adjournment moved under circumstances when 92 I have not thought that course necessary, but if ever the exercise of the privilege has been justified it is on this occasion, in order to bring before the House and the public this system that is being pursued in Ireland, this parody of justice. I can tell the First Lord of the Treasury—who to-night seemed to think that the Irish Estimates are going to pass with remarkable ease and rapidity—I can tell him that we mean to take advantage of these Estimates to exercise the power the House undoubtedly possesses of dealing with all the servants of this House. These men are not independent of the House of Commons. I know they are servants of Dublin Castle. I know they are perfectly loyal servants of Dublin Castle, from whence they have their reward, but I say again in the face of the Chief Secretary what I will say in the country, but it is more honourable and courageous to say it here, that no more disgraceful administration of justice is to be found in the annals of modern history than that which now prevails in Ireland.
§ THE CHIEF SECEETARY FOR IRELAND (MR. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
rose, and Mr. HANBURY (Preston) rose at the same time, and both remained standing for some seconds, while cries were raised for either.
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It is very difficult to please hon. Gentlemen opposite When I did not get up to reply to the right hon. Member for West Belfast, hon. Members were not satisfied, and I heard one hon. Gentleman, with characteristic courtesy, call out "you are afraid"; and when I do rise to follow the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton it is intimated that I ought to delay my reply until another hon. Gentleman has addressed the House. So far as I am concerned I should have preferred to reserve my speech till the end of the debate, because as my hon. and learned friend the Solicitor General for Ireland has already spoken, there will be nobody left on this Bench to reply with that full knowledge of the details of Irish administration which is necessary adequately to meet the misrepresentations of hon. Gentlemen 93 opposite. But I cannot believe that my hon. Friend behind me means to attack the Government; and therefore I proceed to make such reply as may be necessary to the speech of the right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Wolverhampton. The right hon. Gentleman has very properly divided the case into two distinct parts—first, that part which, in its nature, is more legal and technical, relating to the action taken by the Magistrates in consequence of the hon. Member for Cork's behaviour in court; and, secondly, the part which relates to the sentence inflicted by the Magistrates for the original offence with which Dr. Tanner was charged. On the second part I need not detain the House long. The right hon. Gentleman has advanced the astounding assertion, as coming from a gentleman learned in the law, that the Court sentenced Dr. Tanner to three months' imprisonment for contempt of Court. The Court did nothing of the kind. Dr. Tanner need not remain one moment longer in prison in consequence of his conduct in Court. He has only to find sureties for good behaviour, which he can do without the slightest difficulty, and no imprisonment will follow on account of that conduct. But the right hon. Gentleman, to my intense surprise, says that Dr. Tanner naturally did not take a course that would be discreditable to him, that he was not the man to find sureties for his good behaviour, and, acting like a man of courage (Interruptions.) [An hon. MEMBER, "more than you do.]" ("Order")—acting like a man of courage, he went to prison. Irrelevant and discourteous interruptions do not disturb me, and I do not think my hon. Friends behind me need trouble their heads about them. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the language of Dr. Tanner in Court was highly improper. ("No! If he used it.") He did not defend it, he admitted it was highly improper. The phrase which I myself should have used as to that language is much stronger than that; but, take it to be what the right hon. Gentleman admitted it was, if Dr. Tanner used language which was highly improper, why should it be disgraceful to him to give sureties for his good behaviour? He was guilty of that which was not good behaviour, the right hon. Gentleman admits the impropriety, why, 94 therefore, is it discreditable to him that surities should be required from him, and why this loose and violent rhetoric which has been used by the right hon. Gentleman? But this is not all. The right hon. Gentleman says that the adjournment of the House affords a very proper opportunity for bringing this case before the House and the country; but, at all events, neither the House nor the country can do anything to relieve Dr. Tanner from the sentence, if you call it a sentence ("Why not?"), imposed on him by the Court. But something can be done to relieve Dr. Tanner from the consequences of his behaviour if the Magistrates have been guilty of the misconduct attributed to them by the right hon. Gentleman. This House is not the place to re-try the action of the Magistrates. There is a Court which is competent to survey, and, if necessary, to quash, the action of the inferior Court on the ground of illegality; and if the Magistrates have acted illegally, as the right hon. Gentleman maintains, let him not come down to the House and indulge in violent tirades against the Magistrates and the Officials—let him take the legitimate course of asking a competent legal tribunal to give an opinion on the action of the Magistrates. With one further remark I will leave this branch of the question. The right hon. Gentleman appears to be deeply indignant because the Magistrates took the course which they did take rather than that under the Statute, which has been referred to more than once, that would have enabled them to inflict a sentence for contempt of Court. Now, in my opinion, the Magistrates adopted, I will not say the legal course, but the merciful course; and they did so not merely because by the action they took they did not necessarily inflict a single hour's imprisonment, but because if they were wrong in taking that course there is a mode of questioning the action of the Magistrates. The right hon. Gentleman is very strong on the matter of appeal, but I apprehend that if the Magistrates had given Dr. Tanner seven days' imprisonment there would have been no appeal. But now their action can be reviewed by a higher Court. Therefore I say that the Magistrates took the merciful course on two grounds, partly because they did not inflict a sentence at all, and partly because their 95 action can be done away with if a superior Court should hold that it was illegal. I would remind the mover of the adjournment that as that sentence was concurrent with the sentence for the assault on the policeman, a whole month must elapse before any injury can, under any circumstances, be inflicted on Dr. Tanner. During that month there will be ample time for taking steps to have the legal question tried; and if it is not tried it can only be—whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may say in this House—because they think the case, though good enough to bring before a Party audience, is not good enough to go before a Court of law. I pronounce no opinion on the question of law. I know not and I care not how it may be decided by the superior tribunal; but let not hon. Gentlemen opposite say the Magistrates have acted improperly unless they have the courage to go to a Court that is competent to decide the question. I pass to that part of the charge brought against the Magistrates which relates to the sentence inflicted on Dr. Tanner for the original offence in respect of which he was brought before them. This has been described with an extraordinary wealth of invective, as gross, indecent, discreditable, and vindictive, and with other high-sounding adjectives which it is not worth while to record. Now, it is not my business to say whether the sentence was excessive or was not, but I do say most emphatically that the offence of which Dr. Tanner was accused and found guilty, and with regard to which he brought no evidence to prove his innocence, was a most disgusting and horrible offence. It was an offence which I gather Dr. Tanner did not himself defend in Court, and the character of which none of his friends have ventured to defend in the House. If Dr. Tanner was guilty of that offence, and whether the sentence inflicted was too serious or not, I maintain that, taking all the circumstances into account, the fact that Dr. Tanner is a Member of Parliament, instead of diminishing, greatly aggravated the offence. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to found part of his indictment against the Government on the fact that the man accused is a Member of this House. Of all men in the world, surely a Member of Parlia- 96 ment ought to be the one who would not, under any circumstances or provocation whatever, be guilty of the disgusting offence of which Dr. Tanner was accused. Having read the proceedings, and taking into account the circumstances of the case, I feel no doubt that the tribunal not only acted rightly, but as any other tribunal in the world would have acted in finding Dr. Tanner guilty of the offence. The most clear and specific evidence was tendered on oath that he was guilty; and no evidence of a rebutting kind was adduced, though every opportunity was given for its production if it existed. There is but one conclusion that any Member of the House or any tribunal can arrive at—namely, that Dr. Tanner was guilty of the offence. The right hon. Gentleman says that, at any rate, Dr. Tanner should have had an appeal. But the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that there was no question of law involved, but that it was a simple question of fact. If the Magistrates were not qualified to decide intricate legal questions, they were perfectly competent to decide an issue of the kind brought before them. And why should a tribunal, having a simple plain matter of fact to deal with, in respect of which evidence of a conclusive kind was adduced on one side, and none on the other, go out of its way to give an appeal to Dr. Tanner? There had been a great deal said about the retirement of Dr. Tanner's counsel. [Cries of "Expulsion."] If the right hon. Gentleman had followed with the close attention I have had to give to them the proceedings under the Crimes Act, he would have known that the course habitually pursued by a certain class of the accused and of lawyers in Ireland before the Crimes Courts has the appearance of a deliberate conspiracy to insult the Court and render the decorous administration of justice absolutely impossible. Instances of this kind have been familiar for the last two years. There is no doubt if decency and order are to be maintained in these Courts, and Magistrates are to be allowed to possess and use those powers without which the law cannot be administered with dignity and propriety, such incidents as that which resulted in the expulsion of the counsel of Dr. Tanner must be dealt with severely. It is a 97 great error to regard this as an isolated example. It is an instance of an unhappily familiar practice; and I do not think that the Magistrates had open to them any other course than that which they actually pursued. I do not think it is necessary for me to deal with any more of the points raised except one. All the hon. Gentlemen who have addressed the House from the Opposition side have made allusions to a speech delivered two days ago by my noble Friend the Member for Paddington. My noble Friend has been quoted as a critic of the Government in respect to the imprisonment of Members of Parliament, and he has been deliberately quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast as being on his side of the controversy, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite stated that the noble Lord had discovered what I, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, had not discovered—that it was unpopular to imprison Members of Parliament.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman will not be in order in discussing the speech of the noble Lord to which reference has been made. It has no connection with the question before the House.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Nothing in the nature of an examination of that speech was going to fall from my lips. I was merely going to protest against the language of my noble Friend being interpreted as it has been interpreted by hon. Gentlemen opposite. My noble Friend is not present to defend himself, but I do not know that it is my business to defend him. Of course, Sir, I bow to your ruling. I will only say, in conclusion, that I have never taken into account the consideration which the right hon. Gentleman opposite seems to think ought to have paramount weight with me. He seems to think that the question of popularity or unpopularity is the paramount consideration to determine these matters. I do not think so. Whether it is popular or unpopular, I am going to do my best to preserve law in Ireland. And I do not think that to allow even a Member of 98 Parliament to spit on a policeman with impunity is the best course to be taken in order to maintain the law. But I go further. I have not been, and shall not be, deterred from doing anything I think to be right by the fear of unpopularity, or by the threat of what the right hon. Gentleman may say before my face or behind my back. But I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman in thinking that the people of this country would look with favour on so grossly partial an administration of justice as would punish the humble dupes in Ireland and leave unpunished those more powerful politicians who use their position in this House as one from which they can with impunity and effect stir up the people to courses of disloyalty and disorder.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
This is not the first time in which, differing as I do with hon. Members below the Gangway, I have risen to resent what has seemed to me to be not only an inexpedient treatment of Irishmen from a Party point of view, taking the lowest consideration, but to protest against what seems at first sight to me to be actually illegal and unconstitutional treatment. If we are to fight hon. Members opposite—and I am prepared to fight them on the question of Home Rule to the last—if, at any rate, we are to make our case clear and just before the people of this country to whom we shall have to appeal at an earlier or distant date, at any rate let us be able to show to the country that we have treated Irish Members with every possible degree of fairness. I agree that distinctions ought not be drawn between Members of Parliament and ordinary criminals; indeed, I should be inclined to punish a Member of Parliament who broke the law more severely than an ordinary lawbreaker. Although I should be perfectly ready to attack the Government, if I thought them wrong in the case before the House, yet, seeing that they have not defended the Resident Magistrate, the vote I shall give will not be against the Government, but will show my appreciation of the fact that the Resident Magistrates ought not to strain and stretch the law as they do. If Dr. Tanner is guilty of the offence with which he is charged, then he richly deserves the punishment which he has received. But with re- 99 ference to the tribunal, I express an opinion not general on this side of the House, but one which I have held ever since I had read the names and occupations of the Resident Magistrates, that they are not the most fitting persons to administer justice in the exceptional circumstances of the Coercion Act, and it was no satisfaction to me to see the occupants of the two Front Benches pointing to each other as responsible for their appointment. It does not matter two pins by whom the appointments were made. I do not think these gentlemen are qualified to exercise the jurisdiction entrusted to them. There was every reason why, in this particular ease, the Resident Magistrates should have acted with the greatest possible circumspection. In the first place, they had a politician as the criminal, and although politicians must be tried like other criminals who offend against the law, still you cannot help, in the excited state of public feeling in Ireland, a certain amount of prejudice from being imported into the case in such instances. In this particular instance there was one very special circumstance. The man whom Dr. Tanner was charged with grossly insulting was an official of the Court, and that is a circumstance which ought to have weighed with the Court in passing sentence. But the question we have to deal with is one solely of contempt of Court. I am no lawyer, but I was very much struck, from the commonsense point of view, with the remarks of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Fowler) when he, speaking as a lawyer, gave it as his opinion that the recent Act, which only inflicts seven days' punishment for contempt of Court, overrides the old law under which it is possible to give a greater amount of punishment. But, whether that be true or not, when we pass exceptional laws for Ireland, which are considered to be sufficiently stringent, it seems to me to be unnecessary, modern laws being so strict, to go back and find out musty precedents in order to bring them into Court against opponents. It is no answer to say that Dr. Tanner need not have gone to gaol, and that he might have chosen the other alternative and given surety for good behaviour. The Judges who gave the decision looked on the two things as equivalents, and both of them, I say, 100 far exceed the seven days' imprisonment which can be inflicted under the law. Speaking from the point of view of a Unionist, and as one who wishes to maintain law and order in Ireland, I think we ought to be sure that the law and order to be maintained is the law and order which is recognised by Parliament and sanctioned by Statute. The Government, while they ought, undoubtedly, to keep order in Ireland and maintain the law, ought to be very careful that they do not go one iota beyond what is absolutely certain is the law. I have often observed that the law, as administered by the Resident Magistrates, has been somewhat strained. I could understand anyone who wished to separate England and Ireland trying to make enemies of the hon. Members from Ireland, and of the Irish people, but for the Conservative Party, who look to the day when the difficulties between England and Ireland will be removed, I think it is very bad policy indeed to try and embitter the Irish people, and to allow a sentence of this kind, which can be quashed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. A. J. Balfour) to remain, and so seemingly to be supporting what, if it is not actually illegal and unconstitutional, does seem to be a strong straining of the law. It is because I am a strong Unionist that I say it is folly to make the English Law unpopular in Ireland, and to provoke the Irish Members, who, for the present at least, are the leaders of the Irish people, by acts which, I venture to say, are illegal and unconstitutional.
§ MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N.W.)
I have almost invariably noticed that when excesses by the Irish Resident Magistrates are brought before the notice of the House the English Law Officers are silent. I should like to ask the hon. and learned Attorney General whether or not he thinks that the Resident Magistrates exceeded their powers when they bound Dr. Tanner over in his good behaviour for the alleged contempt of Court. I feel confident, speaking as a very humble English lawyer, that my hon. and learned Friend will inform the House on his great authority that this action of the Irish Magistrates cannot possibly be defended by any lawyer. I do not think we ought to confine ourselves to narrow and technical grounds as to whether the Magistrates 101 were entitled to act as they did or not Under a recent Statute, as has been, pointed out, the maximum penalty for contempt of Court in a Court of Summary Jurisdiction in Ireland is seven days' imprisonment, and I cannot help thinking that these two Irish Magistrates had a very shrewd notion that Dr. Tanner would not allow himself to be bound over in sureties to keep the peace, and they came to the conclusion that by binding him over they would be inflicting a far heavier punishment upon him than if they sentenced him to seven days' imprisonment. The Solicitor General for Ireland quoted from Hawkins's Pleas of the Crown to show that the Magistrates were entitled to take the course they did take. The power under which such a sentence could be imposed is conferred by the Statute of the 34th of Edward III., Chapter 1. The hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland was careful not to quote Hawkins's statement, that the power appears to refer only to matters having relation to the peace, and "it has been said not to apply to rash, quarrelsome, or unmannerly words unless they directly tend to a breach of the peace." Although there is a power in the Magistrates to bind over for good behaviour, it is a power which has no relation whatever to contempt of Court. I will ask my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General whether he can state that in all his experience there has been one single instance in which a person has been bound over for contempt of Court under this Statute. It is the commonest thing in the world for strong language to be used in the heat of the moment by prisoners, and Justices or Judges either ignore such language altogether or confine themselves to ordering the detention of the offender, perhaps for the rest of the day. It appears to me there can be no possible defence, either technically or in substance, for this most extraordinary conduct on the part of these Magistrates. They also declined all facilities for appealing. Under the 42nd and 43rd Vict, it is expressly provided for the liberty of the subject that whenever a person is convicted and punished by imprisonment, there shall be a power of appeal. I say that to have deliberately shut out Dr. Tanner from an appeal is a scandal 102 in the administration of justice. Matters of this kind disturb the public conscience and constitute what is nothing more or less than a reproach to the Government of Ireland, and I utterly refuse to believe that my hon. Friend Dr. Tanner was guilty of so disgusting an offence as that with which he is charged.
§ * MR. FULTON (West Ham, North)
I rise in order to enter an emphatic protest against the growing practice of discussing legal questions in this House—legal questions which are capable of being properly discussed in a Court of Law. The hon. and learned Member who has just sat down had the amazing effrontery—[" Oh," and "Order"]—I will not insist upon that word but will say the hon. Member asked the Attorney General to be kind enough to give his opinion upon the question of law as to whether the Crimes Act Court was right or not. I sincerely hope the Attorney General will do nothing of the kind. If, as is said, the Magistrates acted without jurisdiction, there is the simplest possible way of ascertaining that immediately. As every lawyer knows by simply moving the Queen's Bench that Court would at once have ordered, on cause being shown, a rule nisi to have the order of the Magistrates brought up, and by that means the order, if they acted without jurisdiction, could be quashed. Hon. Members opposite are hard to please. They complain of the Magistrates because they would not, in the first instance, pass on Dr. Tanner a sentence which would give him the right of appeal, and then, when the Magistrates make an order with respect to the contempt, which gives him the opportunity to appeal, they find fault with the Magistrates for giving him that opportunity. This Debate has been very instructive. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Fowler) a Member of the Privy Council, and a former Member of the Government, has stated in his place in this House that the hon. Member for Mid Cork. Dr. Tanner, was perfectly right and acted as every hon. Member would have done, when he positively and peremptorily refused to admit the jurisdiction of a Court constituted by law.
§ * MR. FOWLER
The hon. Gentleman will be good enough to quote me correctly. I did not say he was perfectly 103 justified in refusing to admit the jurisdiction of the Court, but that after his counsel had been ordered out of Court and he had been deprived of legal advice he was perfectly right in contending that he could not have a fair trial.
§ * MR. FULTON
That refers to a different matter. The right hon. Gentleman repeated several times that the Magistrates had sentenced Dr. Tanner to three months' imprisonment, and I said "No." Then the right hon. Gentleman said—"The hon. Gentleman is referring to the fact that he could have given sureties to keep the peace. Of course he would not give sureties to keep the peace." We have it, then, on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman that a Member of Parliament brought up before a Court properly constituted and which has heard evidence on oath is perfectly justified in refusing to find sureties to keep the peace. I am quite willing that this House and the country should judge as to whether that is a proper attitude to adopt. I should like to know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton or the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley) approves of the conduct of Dr. Tanner's counsel. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton says that if such conduct took place in England there would simply be a rebuke from the Bench and that would be an end of the matter. I venture to say that no one can produce anywhere any record within modern memory of a counsel daring to use such language and behaving in such a manner in a Court of Law in England. I invite any one of my hon. and learned Friends opposite who sympathise with Dr. Tanner to attempt to use such language in any such Court. I say, without hesitation, that if any member of the English Bar sank so low as to act in that manner he would very soon be brought to his senses by one of Her Majesty's Judges in a way that would be extremely disagreeable to him. I altogether deny the right of members of the Bar to insult any properly constituted tribunal merely because they happen to disapprove of its constitution. It has been said that in England Magistrates will always increase a sentence in order to give a right of appeal. Of course they 104 will, and the Magistrates in this case would have been wrong to refuse if Dr. Tanner had called any evidence. As he called no evidence there was no reason why they should give a right of appeal This matter after all has been opportunely brought forward, because it shows how utterly unfounded are the accusations of hon. Gentlemen opposite against the Government.
* MR. R. T. REID, &c.) (Dumfries
The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down is apparently of opinion that this House ought not to take cognisance of what he calls legal cases but what we call the maladministration of justice in Ireland. In my opinion it is one of the most important duties this House can discharge to see especially in the exceptional circumstances of the criminal law in Ireland at the present time, that Magistrates do not abuse the powers committed to them. I think it is one of the most gross abuses of which the Resident Magistrates have hitherto been found guilty that they have made use of this old Statute for the purpose of inflicting punishment for contempt of Court. The law relating to contempt of Court is so jealously guarded in England that it is only permitted to Judges of the Superior Court except by Statute. And this for two reasons—in the first place, because the term of imprisonment is unlimited, and in the second place, because the punishment is inflicted by those who have themselves sustained the insult, and it is not necessary to point out that you require carefully to safeguard the powers of punishment placed in the hands of any man under such circumstances. There has been an alteration of the law by Statute in the case of County Courts, and also an alteration of the law in Ireland by which when contempt of Court has been committed, Justices are entitled to imprison for seven days, and may order the person to be removed from Court. Now, Sir, the Resident Magistrates in the case before the House knew of the law which relates directly to contempt of Court, and they deliberately refrained from using it, but went back to the old Statute of Edward III., the object of which was to punish persons for disorderly conduct. I may specify one or two cases mentioned in the Act:—Persons "who sleep in the 105 day and go abroad at night," "such as keep suspicious companies," "eavesdroppers," and "common drunkards." The proceeding is on a Statute passed in Edward III., and it is intended for persons of the character I have described. It is an open question whether, according to the English law, Justices of the Peace are entitled to make use of this Statute at all. I believe it would be difficult to maintain that proposition. But suppose for the sake of the discussion that they are entitled to use it. How have they applied it? They have grossly misapplied the Statute, intended for "drunkards and persons who sleep in the day and walk by night," for the purpose of inflicting punishment they could not otherwise inflict on a man who is supposed to have insulted them. That is the grave part of this matter. I put this question to the Attorney General—has any person ever heard before of this Statute being applied in England for contempt of Court? Has any lawyer in this House ever heard of this obsolete Statute of Edward III. (obsolete for this purpose) being used for inflicting punishment for contempt? What have we got? We have got a couple of Resident Magistrates, being authorised by law to inflict seven days' imprisonment, with the significient alternative that they may order the man to be turned out of Court, making use of a Statute which has no more to do with the law of contempt than any stray Statute you would pick up from that table. It is said there may be an appeal. I will endeavour to meet that proposition. There may be an appeal, not an appeal in form, but a legal process for bringing forward and quashing this proceeding, if it appear that the very wide language of this Statute cannot, under any circumstances, embrace disorderly conduct such as has been suggested here, then the conviction would be set aside, but if, technically, it should appear that this very wide and very loose language may possibly embrace disorderly conduct of any kind, then there will be no certiorari and no appeal. We have, therefore, to remember that Dr. Tanner is now required to raise the question as to what construction can be put on the language of the Statute of Edward III. It is a legal question which I need not 106 now discuss, as the House will not take much interest in it. I believe, in point of fact, that this imprisonment will be set aside. Supposing it is not, the result will be that for the first time in the course of our history Resident Magistrates have made use of a Statute which is not intended for the purpose, in order to wreak their personal revenge upon a man who is supposed to have insulted them. I have endeavoured to point out how the law is maladministered in Ireland by Resident Magistrates, and although it is important, no doubt, that Dr. Tanner should be relieved from the infliction of the sentence which, even if there were lawful power to administer it, is a most gross sentence in comparison to what was done, in my mind a far more important matter is that this is an apt illustration of the length to which these Resident Magistrates will go in gross defiance of the constitutional aspects of the law, which I am afraid they are unable to appreciate.
§ MR. C. J. DARLING (Deptford)
All that the hon. and learned Gentleman has said about the length to which Resident Magistrates will go amounts simply to this, that they have ordered a person who has been disorderly in Court to bring some sureties, which he could have obtained in a moment, that he would be of good behaviour for some time to come. And we are actually told that the country is going to rise in revolt against Her Majesty's present Government, because they do not instantly rebuke in some way or another the Magistrates who have merely ventured to ask a person disorderly in a Court of Justice to give security that he will not be disorderly again. Seeing that the country is for the most part composed of orderly persons, I do not think they will be so shocked at what has happened to a notoriously disorderly person as hon. Members seem to fancy they will. The real secret at the bottom of this Debate is that the Opposition are delighted on this particular evening, before coming to a subject which will divide them into 50 atoms, to find a subject upon which they can all go into the Lobby, and represent to the country that they are a united Party. The hon. Member (Dr. Tanner) is used as a corpus vile for performing in the presence of the public this interesting experiment. But with 107 regard to the proof which the hon. and learned Gentleman (MR. Reid) has attempted to give of the utter illegality of the action of the Resident Magistrates, it seems to me that the more thoroughly he satisfies himself and this House that they had no kind of warrant for this proceeding, the more extraordinary it is, if there should be a real wish to relieve Dr. Tanner of his imprisonment, that a certiorari has not been applied for at once. I make no doubt it will be applied for, after the utterances from a solicitor (Mr. H. H. Fowler) a barrister (Mr. Atherley Jones) and a Queen's counsel (Mr. Reid.) In the course of the many interjections which have adorned this Debate, some hon. Member for England said that Dr. Tanner was too poor to get an opinion. [Mr. SEXTON: No one said that.] Well, I thought so. At all events, that need not stand in the way now he has got opinions in this House from the hon. and learned Gentlemen I have named, that he has a good case against the Resident Magistrates if he likes to apply for a certiorari, and he has got those opinions for nothing. All he has to do to-morrow morning is to get a counsel who can restrain himself in the presence of an Irish Court of Justice. I would not advise him to employ the same counsel as before, as then the real point of the case may never be reached. He has only to employ an orderly and competent counsel, if he can find one in Ireland, and to ask that counsel to apply for a certiorari, and if he only mentions the opinions of the three hon. and learned Gentlemen, I have no doubt he will get it immediately. The more he proves the Resident Magistrates to be wrong, the less need, it appears to me, is there for interference on the part of this House or the Officers of the Crown. Reference has been made to a letter written by the hon. Member, which asked for the grace of the Crown.
§ MR. SEXTON
The hon. and learned Member is under a misapprehension. Dr. Tanner does not want the grace of the Crown; he desires, simply as a Member of Parliament, to expose the cruelty of his treatment.
§ * MR. C J. DARLING
I am very sorry indeed to have imputed so respectable a motive. The only way in which the Chief Secretary, who has been appealed 108 to, can exercise his power is to advise the Lord Lieutenant to exercise the grace of the Crown. He cannot quash the Order of the Resident Magistrates. The only possible way to quash the Order is to go before the Courts in Dublin. I think the application for grace to the Crown might be made with some force. There are circumstances with regard to Dr. Tanner to which I need not allude. ["Allude to them." "What are they?"]—they cannot but be present to the minds of every Member of this House—why the Crown might take a lenient and exceptional view of this matter.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN (Cork, N.E.)
Mr. Speaker, before the House closes, I should like to say a word or two, though not as a lawyer. The scintilla luris to which we have been just treated by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Darling) were not intended or expected to elicit any serious reply from this side of the House. I do not think he has improved the Government casein reference to the charges against Dr. Tanner by his chivalrous and gentlemanly reference to poor Dr. Tanner's wife. I turn, Sir, to more important persons. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton and the hon. and learned Gentleman, who sits opposite, upon their success in drawing the Chief Secretary, who declared two nights ago that there was nothing happening in Ireland which did not bore him now since he had ceased latterly to be amused.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
The right hon. Gentleman repudiates the report of the secret meeting at Shoreditch. Am I to understand that?
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I repudiate the version which the hon. Gentleman has given of the remarks I made.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
Well, I have given the version which I myself saw, and the right hon. Gentleman has only himself to blame if there is not a more authentic report given. He did state according to both the versions I have seen that latterly there was nothing in the state of Ireland, or in what was happening in Ireland that even amused him, or even gave him, as it once gave him acute pleasure to deal with in this House. To- 109 night I am glad to say that he has to some extent been roused out of his state of languor. Notwithstanding his statement of the other night, I venture to hold to the opinion——
§ * MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will not repeat a statement which I have distinctly repudiated.
§ MR. W. O'BRIEN
I am glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman does admit that there are serious and terrible things going on in Ireland still. I think we have had a fairly good specimen of them to night. The right hon. Gentleman, I venture to say, affected to ignore the powerful appeal of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast by putting up the Solicitor General for Ireland to make a defence which was a very conscientious defence, but which was a dry, legal, and thoroughly ineffective defence. But the right hon. Gentleman now finds from indications on this side of the House and on his own side of the House that it is not the Solicitor General that we are arraigning, but himself. Whatever his relations are to the hon. and learned Member for Paddington, he has begun to realise that even on his own side of the House there is an uncomfortable feeling possibly not so candidly or courageously expressed as it was by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, but still a deep feeling that this is an unworthy attempt to insult and to wound a brother Member of this House, who, whatever he may be as an opponent, or whatever men may think of him, is, at all events, a man, every inch of him, and as warm-hearted an Irish gentleman as ever the Chief Secretary delighted to dishonour. But there is one aspect of this case which has not been pressed sufficiently upon the House. I believe nobody who has heard this Debate can seriously doubt that this charge would never have been heard of if the Chief Secretary had not inoculated his subordinates in Ireland with his own apparently incurable taste for wounding his opponents in petty and unmanly ways. Dr. Tanner stated—and who can doubt him?—that he would sooner endure 20 years' imprisonment than be obliged to answer this disgraceful charge. Of course he would. They knew that they could not break his spirit by long months of imprisonment, so they tried to wound 110 him to the quick by a charge which it is a humiliation and an insult to be called upon to answer or deny. [Laughter.] I know that there are hon. Members who are not ashamed of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and not ashamed of themselves. I am glad to think that their opinions are becoming the opinions of a very diminishing minority. I say that the laughter and jeers of hon. Members only emphasises the fact that this charge is in itself the best specimen of this sort which the right hon. Gentleman encourages among his officials in Ireland. The County Inspector and Mr. Fitzgerald, I know quite well, are not so stupid as not to see the kind of services that obtain their promotion. They know that there is nothing which affords the Chief Secretary such exquisito pleasure as putting the word of an Irish Member against the word of an Irish policeman; and it is not their fault if they come to the conclusion—and this is a desperately serious thing—that the more hateful and injurious the insinuations they put forward against the honour of Irish Representatives, the more highly they will be regarded in influential quarters. I know something of the officer whom Dr. Tanner is charged with assaulting. I must say that a more ill-tempered and ferocious officer never had the lives of the people at his mercy, even in Ireland. I do not know how to convey to this House any idea of the sort of man that he is. Probably it would not be discreet to say more, or to say that much, because in a few weeks more I may be in his power again, and I may have a worse charge made against me than was made against my hon. Friend, who is utterly incapable of disgracing the name of an honourable gentleman. He has been taunted with not producing witnesses. Do hon. Members know what a horrible system this is, and how utterly we are at the mercy of these policemen and officials, and how unsafe our honour and character are? What happened in this particular case? Here is a man shut up in a railway carriage with a body of policemen who are encouraged and stimulated in every way to cover Irish Members with opprobrium. Why was this charge kept for months in pickle? It was never mentioned until my hon. Friend's term of imprisonment was 111 coming to a close. Then you have the adjournment to the date when he could not have the advantage of a concurrent sentence. Then you have this episode before Mr. Fitzgerald; you have his counsel thrust out of Court—a counsel who, I think, will compare possibly not unfavourably either in character or in ability with the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken. Mr. Healy is flung out of the Court at the whim of these creatures of the Chief Secretary, and then the man is left defenceless and to his own resources, and actually for the very speech he made in his own defence he is sentenced to three months' imprisonment. I believe it is unheard of that an undefended prisoner should be subjected to this punishment simply because in his defence he is betrayed into a few words of rough truth—a few words which do not disgrace him in the smallest degree in the eyes of his countrymen or in the eyes of honest men in this country. It seems to me that the speeches we have heard to-night establish conclusively that these Magistrates are not content even with the ferocious powers which the Coercion Act gives, but that they must endeavour to heeltap that Coercion Act by having recourse to this ancient Statute against strangers and vagabonds. Whereas it appears as clear as daylight that seven days is the extent of the term of imprisonment for contempt, they have gone to this musty old Statute for a punishment which is in direct contravention of the pledge and understanding upon which this Coercion Act passed this House. The more this question is considered and discussed, the more, I believe, it will be seen that it is a cowardly and vindictive attempt to victimise a political opponent, because Dr. Tanner is supposed not to be a very popular person in this House. It is not the first time that the Government have pressed us too far before the ordinary humane feeling and sympathy of the people of England, and I dare say their experience to-night will have shown that they have ventured too far upon Dr. Tanner's personal unpopularity with a certain section of the House, and that they are not quite so safe as they supposed they were in attempting to degrade and to insult him, and to drag him about in the hands of policemen as they have done. I venture to 112 say that the man who is capable of directing that policy, or of tolerating such a policy, ought to blush for himself in the eyes of honest men, instead of smirking and bragging as he does of it. I will only refer to one other topic—the argument that Dr. Tanner might have obtained bail. Had he done so, it would have been a confession that he had been guilty of this disgraceful conduct, which he utterly repudiates. There is no reason why we should not all be shut up in secula seculorem without any particular charge being made if the Magistrates chose to take such a course. So far as we are concerned, we are accustomed to this sort of thing; but it is a very serious thing for you to encourage these officials in Ireland to believe that, practically speaking, they are safe in putting any story or any charge to the discredit or the dishonour of an Irish Nationalist, and that the more atrocious the charge the better are their chances of promotion. They are convinced that the right hon. Gentleman will accept any story they choose to tell him without qualification, and they are justified in that belief by the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman. They know that he will resolutely refuse the English people any honest way of judging the conduct of his subordinates as the result of any honest and independent public inquiry. They have come to consider that if they only make themselves sufficiently obnoxious to the Irish people they will be the first to be pensioned off when Home Rule is established. It is a very dangerous feeling that you are encouraging in the minds of those officials, and it is time it should be known that the day will come when there will have to be a full and searching investigation into the right and truth of all these matters, if not under the present Government, at any rate under the Government that will succeed it. I have no doubt that when the treatment of Dr. Tanner is inquired into, it will be seen that it was an unworthy and disgraceful attempt to defame a political opponent, and but a part and parcel of the policy which you are endeavouring to carry out all over the country.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
It is very interesting, to hear the hon. Member for North-East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) giving his opinion in regard 113 to odious insinuations. There is no better judge of odious insinuations in the world than the hon. Member. I do not know whether the House remembers, but I certainly do remember, that it was not from this side of the House, but from the hon. Member himself, that the most dreadful insinuations were heaped by him upon his present friends and allies on the Front Opposition Bench, insinuations so odious as not to bear repetition in the ears of civilised society. The hon. Member, alluding to the imprisonment of Dr. Tanner, has characterised that individual as an honest and warm-hearted Irish gentleman. Sir, I have my own opinion on that subject, and my opinion as to an honest, warmhearted, sober-minded Irish gentleman differs materially from that of the hon. Gentleman opposite. And now, Sir, I should like to draw attention to what is the real question before this House and the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Preston has alluded to it, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Fowler) took it as his principal theme; and I think we may expect that, during the Recess, sermons from that text will be preached to the English people. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fowler) seemed to think that it is a very serious thing to imprison a Member of this House; but if an hon. Member of this House chooses to break the law, and subject himself to the penalties of the law, why, I ask, should he be treated in a different manner from that in which he would treat the meanest of Her Majesty's subjects? My hon. Friend is entirely astray when he says that the real question we are discussing is the punishment of Dr. Tanner for refusing to find bail. The question we are now debating is, whether the authorities were right in imprisoning Dr. Tanner, not for a contempt of Court, but for a disgraceful and an odious offence which was clearly proved against him. [Several hon. MEMBERS: No, no!] I am certainly right, because there was no rebutting evidence. If the hon. Member for Cork chose to allow himself to be accused in a Court of Justice of an odious offence, and deliberately refused to give evidence to the contrary, then he allows judgment to go by default against him. As to whether the hon. Member for Cork is or is not capable of such a disgraceful 114 act, I offer no opinion; but the conduct of the hon. Member is in the memory of the House, and all I can say is that the impression produced on my mind is that there are very few things he is not capable of doing in opposing the law.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor of Dublin appealed at the outset of his speech to the sympathy of this House for Dr. Tanner. Now, what was the sympathy of the House to be accorded to Dr. Tanner for? It was because he was incarcerated in an Irish gaol. I cannot conceive that that appeal related to the decision on the question of contempt of Court, because, in all probability, that sentence will be quashed. As a Magistrate, I am not aware that there is power to inflict such a punishment as has been imposed upon Dr. Tanner, and I have a strong idea that that punishment will not be carried out. But that is not my point, and that is not the ground on which the Lord Mayor of Dublin appealed to the sympathy of this House and country. He appealed for that sympathy on the ground that Dr. Tanner is in gaol undergoing the penalty of hard labour, and that he had no right to appeal.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
In such a case as this no Magistrate would ever have given an appeal in the case of an ordinary individual or common person who had not attained the exalted rank of an Irish Nationalist Member; but if they had granted an appeal, on what ground would it have been given? Dr. Tanner had said they were a grossly unjust tribunal, utterly unfit to try the case, which was one of a disgraceful assault on a police officer, although, I am sorry to say, it is not one of a character which is utterly unknown in Ireland. The question I want to ask the House—and, if I live, I shall ask the country—is this: hon. Members opposite, for the purpose of spreading their own opinions, deliberately go over to Ireland and disobey the law to try to bring it into contempt. The law upon, which they trample is not a law passed by my right hon. Friend the Chief 115 Secretary, but by this democratic House of Commons; and I maintain that if there is one thing which the people of this country will insist upon more than another it is that Members of this House shall be treated in the eyes of the law in the same way as the meanest man in the Kingdom. You are asked to sympathise with the hon. Member for Cork because he is now in gaol under going the tyrannical law which this House has passed; but, in so putting himself in gaol, he has only fulfilled his highest aspirations. If the House will allow me, I will read an elegant extract from one of the hon. Gentleman's speeches——
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
As this Motion of Adjournment has been made on a definite matter of urgent public importance, I think the hon. Member should confine himself to the matter at issue.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
I still maintain that, in imprisoning Dr. Tanner, the Magistrates were fulfilling his highest aspirations, openly expressed—namely, that he desired and hoped to be put in gaol, and to obtain a period of retirement, which he has now succeeded in securing. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Mayor of Dublin has appealed to this House for sympathy towards Dr. Tanner, who is now in prison for a disgraceful and odious offence; but it should be remembered that this is not an accusation suddenly brought against the Member for Mid Cork, but one which has been before the public for some time. Why did not the hon. Member come before the country and deny that he had ever committed such an abominable action? [An hon. MEMBER: "What chance had he?"] At all events, some of the 85 mouths below the Gangway on the other side of the House might have spoken for him. Allow me to point out how childish it was on the part of the hon. Member for North East Cork (Mr. W. O'Brien) to say why should Dr. Tanner in a Court of Justice attempt to deny a charge of this kind. I maintain that any man, whatever his position, is under the necessity of denying such a charge, supposing it to be untrue. I say it is the duty of every hon. Gentleman so charged of an abominable offence to establish his 116 character as a private man, and as a Member of this House. I hope the House will see that Her Majesty's Government, at any rate, are not to blame in this matter. Is there any instance on record in Parliamentary history of any hon. Member of this House getting up in his place and accusing the Government of the day of prostituting justice to their own ends, either in England, Wales, or Scotland? But because this occurred in Ireland, and because hon. Members opposite found their policy on a successful resistance to the law of Ireland, we have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, who is a lawyer and ought to know better, getting up in his place and without a shadow of foundation for his remarks accusing two Irish Magistrates of being absolutely destitute of one shred of honour, and of having for political motives prostituted the law which they were bound to administer. Whatever may be said of an Irish lawyer he may, at any rate, compare favourably with the right hon. Gentleman himself. No language is too strong to repudiate this attempt to vilify the Irish Magistrates, whoso duty is hard enough already, in the attempt to exercise the different functions which this House, and not Her Majesty's Government, have placed in their hands. And yet the right hon. Gentleman gets up in his place in this House and helps to fan the flame of illegality in Ireland, and to prompt the Irish people to disobey a law which this Parliament has passed.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I do not desire to detain the House on this question, but I think it right to say that I know Dr. Tanner to be a high-hearted and honourable man, and I am convinced that he did not commit the act of which he has been charged. I think I know more about Dr. Tanner's character than the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, and I am not ashamed to say so. I believe him to be a very kind-hearted, honourable man, although, perhaps, not always very discreet. Some time ago a friend of mine who was travelling in Ireland met with a very severe accident by being thrown out of a car. Dr. Tanner took charge of this gentleman, and for many days nursed him most kindly and tenderly.
§ MR. NOBLE (Hastings)
I rise to order. I wish to know whether the kindheartedness of Dr. Tanner is the question before the House?
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
A few days ago I spoke to Dr. Tanner on the subject of the charge against him, and he assured me on his word of honour that he did not commit the act of which he was accused, and I believe him. The House should remember that Dr. Tanner did not produce evidence in contradiction of the charge against him because he denied the jurisdiction and competency of the Court. I would ask hon. Members opposite to consider whether it is not certain that two Resident Magistrates sentenced Dr. Tanner to one month's hard labour with the intention of ousting what would otherwise have been Dr. Tanner's appeal to the County Court. This is only one illustration of many cases of the same kind. The Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant has pointed out that Dr. Tanner might have relieved himself from imprisonment by giving security and bail for his good conduct. But if Dr. Tanner had done so, he would have admitted that he had been in the wrong, and I do not think there is a Member of this House who, under similar circumstances, would have taken that course. When the hon. Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston) was very unjustly sent to prison by a Conservative Government in 1868 for holding an Orange meeting in the North of Ireland, Lord Mayo offered to release him if he would enter into his recognizances for his future good conduct, and would undertake not to repeat the act, but the hon. Gentleman very rightly refused to give such an undertaking. If he had done otherwise, I think he would have forfeited the good opinion of every Irishman. I will conclude by remarking that, in my opinion, the Magistrates took this method of dealing with Dr. Tanner's case knowing that that Gentleman would go to prison for three months in addition to the three months' hard labour that had previously been inflicted upon him on another charge.
§ * SIR H. DAVEY (Stockton)
I do not think there is any real difference of opinion among lawyers on the point before the House. No hon. and learned Member opposite has expressed the 118 opinion that the Magistrates had jurisdiction to inflict three months' imprisonment on the hon. Member for Mid Cork (Dr. Tanner). To put a strained interpretation on the Statute of Edward III. so as to include contempt of Court within the general wording is not a proper use of the Statute. It has been said that legal questions which may come before the Courts ought not to be argued in this House; but I claim, on behalf of the honour and dignity of the House, the right to bring forward any case wherein a Member of the House has been committed to prison by a Magistrate acting in excess of his jurisdiction. This is not a question affecting Dr. Tanner, but it affects the House. I deny that because it is a matter which may have to be decided by the Courts the House is precluded from discussing the reasons why one of its Members is prevented from attending its sittings. We have continually called, and intend to call, the attention of the House to any case in which there has appeared to be any maladministration of justice in the circumstances in which Ireland is now placed The Government have obtained an exceptional Act creating an exceptional tribunal. I admit that the Act is the law of the land, and that we cannot complain of the powers which it confers being exercised. But the exceptional character of the Act makes it more incumbent on the House to take care that the large jurisdiction conferred on Magistrates shall not be exceeded. Then we are told that this may be a matter of appeal, or that a certiorari might be applied for. I do not know what course Dr. Tanner may take, but even if he applies for a certiorari that does not answer the point which the Lord Mayor of Dublin has brought before the House. The right hon. Gentleman expended a great deal of eloquence in describing the horrible and abominable nature of the crime of which Dr. Tanner has been convicted. If Dr. Tanner has been guilty of that offence it may be admitted that his conduct was at least unbecoming and unworthy of a gentleman. But the real points are—first, whether the Magistrates have not exceeded their jurisdiction; and, secondly, whether they have exercised that jurisdiction in a proper manner by refusing an oppor- 119 tunity of appeal from the sentence. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that it was Dr. Tanner's own fault in not finding surety. Why, if Dr. Tanner had done so he would have admitted the jurisdiction of the Court to make that order; and the jurisdiction has not been seriously defended by any single Member of the House. With regard to the refusal of the right of appeal in connection with the first sentence, I can only say that under the special circumstances of the ease when Dr. Tanner had been deprived of the services of his counsel, I know not whether rightly or wrongly, owing to that gentleman having conducted himself in a manner which the Magistrates considered improper, and when the Magistrates were told that there was evidence which might put a different complexion on the case, it was their duty either to postpone the trial so that the accused might obtain other advice, or to inflict such a sentence as would enable Dr. Tanner to appeal to a higher Court. The Solicitor General for Ireland will not go further than to say that doubts have been entertained whether the Statute of Edward III. applies to a ease like this. But when the Summary Jurisdiction Act prescribes a remedy and fixes the punishment of one week's imprisonment, the effect of that enactment is to prevent the Magistrates from inflicting any greater term of imprisonment. Otherwise, the Magistrates would be able to do indirectly that which they are prohibited from doing directly. The Secretary for Ireland repeated that he is determined to discharge his duty, and to preserve respect for the law in Ireland. But I tell him that events such as this, if what is stated is true, constitute a mockery and travesty of justice—the idea of giving three months for what the Magistrate is restricted to one week! These cases are calculated to destroy respect for law in Ireland. If the Government had expressed their regret that the Magistrates had exceeded their jurisdiction and would take care that no harm came to Dr. Tanner, it would be far otherwise. But when the Irish people see that the Government use all their powers to support sentences and orders against Dr. Tanner which they do not venture to say are in accordance with law, it is not to be expected that they will show much respect for the 120 law which was administered in their own country.
§ * THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir E. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
It is a pity that my hon. and learned Friend, for whose opinions on all legal questions I entertain the highest respect, should have made a speech without acquainting himself with the facts. My hon. and learned Friend has said that if what is stated is true this trial has been a mockery and travesty of justice, and that Dr. Tanner is at that moment illegally imprisoned.
§ * SIR HORACE DAVEY
What I said, or at least intended to say, was that the Government were supporting an order made by Magistrates for three months' imprisonment.
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
My hon. and learned Friend could not have made the statement he did if he had known the facts. Imprisonment has been inflicted for the disgraceful offence referred to for one month. At the end of that month any question with reference to the further sentence of three months can be raised. Now, what are the facts? My hon. and learned Friend and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton have attributed injustice to the Magistrates, because it is said that they acted in the absence of Dr. Tanner's counsel. My hon. and learned Friend further said that the Magistrates were told that there was other evidence, and that they ought to have adjourned the case. But my hon. and learned Friend seems to have forgotten that on the 2nd of July the hon. and learned Member for Longford appeared for Dr. Tanner and openly charged the Magistrates with being in a conspiracy against Dr. Tanner with the witnesses who gave evidence against him. He charged them with conspiring to prevent justice being done. I pass no opinion on the conduct of that hon. and learned Gentleman, but I would ask the attention of the House to what actually happened. One witness for Dr. Tanner was called and broke down, utterly failing to establish the innocence of the defendant. Thereupon the Court said that if there were further witnesses the 121 Court would adjourn, thus doing the very thing which my hon. and learned Friend said they ought to have done. The Court was adjourned from the 2nd to the 26th of July, and since then Dr. Tanner has been in communication with many of his able and accomplished friends in the House, and, among them, with the Member for Bradford, as that right hon Gentleman has told us to-night. It is trifling with the House when it is said of an hon. Member accused of a disgusting offence — it is trifling with the House to say that he had witnesses who could prove that he was not guilty, and declined to call them. Dr. Tanner acknowledged the jurisdiction of the Court, having appeared before it by counsel and solicitor, and called a witness; the House, therefore, will draw its own conclusions as to why the other witnesses were not called. Further, having regard to the character of the language admitted by the Lord Mayor of Dublin to have been used by Dr. Tanner, the Court would not have been justified in taking the protests of a man who had used such language against the testimony of witnesses who had been sworn and cross-examined. My hon. and learned Friend challenges me to pledge my reputation as to a particular view of the law. Well, it does not seem to me that this is the right place for one lawyer to boast or brag of his own opinion or to pledge his reputation; but when the Statute comes to be examined I think a great deal more is to be said for the power of the Justices who had such conduct before them to act upon the Statute than has been suggested. But I decline in this House to express an opinion upon a matter which ought to be discussed and dealt with by a proper legal tribunal upon proper information. It seems to me that, inasmuch as this question may be raised elsewhere in the course of a few days or a few weeks, it would not be right for anyone to pledge his reputation either on one side or on the other in this House.
§ * SIR R. WEBSTER
I am not able to make all my observations at the same time. No doubt I ought to have answered 122 the hon. Member for Dumfries first. I know of no case in which the Statute has been so used. On the other hand, I am very glad to know that the instances of such insults offered to Magistrates in the face of the Court are of very rare occurrence indeed. At any rate, the law books I am privileged to consult do not show many such instances. But this is not the proper tribunal for dealing with the case. With characteristic candour the Lord Mayor of Dublin has admitted that if the offence were proved he would not say the sentence was too great. But the Court had the proof before it, and passed a sentence, and it would be improper for this House to try the validity of an Order which might be appealed against next week. My hon. and learned Friend has said that if Dr. Tanner had been willing to give security he would have admitted the jurisdiction. But my hon. and learned Friend will not find a scintilla of authority to show that a man who has obeyed the order of the Court in a criminal case has waived his right to go into the Court of Queen's Bench next day, either by certiorari or habeas corpus. I do not intend to notice every point which has been raised. But I trust I have addressed myself to the points as to which hon. Members wish that I should say a word. I trust that nothing which has occurred this evening will lead anyone to the conclusion that the Court ought not to deal with the case on the evidence before it. If Magistrates are to listen to the protestations of innocence where no evidence is called, or are afraid to do their duty, there is an end of any bonâ fide administration of the law. Even my right hon. Friend will agree with me that the case having been adjourned, and Dr. Tanner, having declined to produce evidence, the Court had no option but to perform its duty, and to do so fearlessly.
§ MR. A. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
I trust that the House will listen to the few words I have to say. We have it admitted that this assault alleged to have been committed on a policeman was not an ordinary assault. It was committed, if at all, while Dr. Tanner was in custody. That must not be forgotten. He had been sentenced to three months' imprisonment by a Resident Magistrate for an offence under the Coercion Act, and while he 123 was being conveyed to prison it was alleged that he committed this assault. He, therefore, brought himself within the scope of the Prison Act of 1877, and under the rules the Governor of the prison or the Visiting Justices were the proper authority for trying him for the alleged offence. But that did not suit the purposes of the Government. They preferred to allow the term of imprisonment to expire and not to take any proceedings until Dr. Tanner had regained his liberty. I contend that this is an infringement of the Prison Act of 1877, and I cannot understand how any Member of the Government can get up and defend such a scandalous Act. I submit, also, that Dr. Tanner was quite justified in refusing to acknowledge the jurisdiction of the Magistrates.
§ MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
I wish only to speak as to a question of fact. It has been stated that the language used in Court by the hon. Member for Mid Cork was unusual. I beg entirely to challenge that statement. Only a few weeks ago I was present at a trial of two Members of this House before two Resident Magistrates at Drogheda, and they were defended by Mr. Bodkin, who used towards the Magistrates much the same language as that imputed to Dr. Tanner. Mr. Bodkin stated that in his opinion the Magistrates had the sentence they were to pass already in their pockets, or that they would telegraph to Dublin for it. Therefore, the language that Dr. Tanner had used did not appear to be unusual in Ireland, and the argument based upon that statement falls to the ground.
§ The House divided: —Ayes 118; Noes 174.—(Div. List, No. 268.)