HC Deb 16 May 1889 vol 336 cc337-40

Considered in Committee. (In the Committee.)

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

I think the words "in England" should be inserted. I think it should have to go before a Court of Quarter Sessions in England. Certainly to go before a Court of Quarter Sessions in Ireland is not a very happy prospect.


I understand there is an appeal in Ireland, but if the House is willing to insert the words "in England," they might be considered on Report.


I do not mean to convey that there is no appeal in Ireland. What I mean is this, that supposing a man on the popular side is prosecuted before the Court of Quarter Sessions, he will be convicted, but if he is a Tory he will be discharged. I do not know whether I am in order, but I should move the insertion of the words "in England."


I rather gather that it is the wish of the hon. and learned Gentleman to confine trial in Ireland to Assizes as distinct from Quarter Sessions. I am not able to express an opinion upon that without consultation with the Solicitor General for Ireland. The alteration might be made on Report, but I am not justified in consenting to it now.


On Report we have only one chance. Unless we get this concession, Mr. Courtney, I shall move a new clause.

LORD R. CHURCHILL, (Paddington, S.)

I should like my hon. and learned Friend to make a concession on this point. I think we may take it for granted that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite is as authoritative upon the law as the Solicitor General of Ireland.


did not reply.


Very well, then; we will go on. My object, Mr. Courtney, is to make a provision such as exists in the Truck Act, 1882, that the Act shall not apply in certain circumstances in Ireland. My clause will be to the effect that the provisions relating to prosecutions and change of venue under the Criminal Law Procedure (Ireland) Act, 1887, shall not apply to proceedings under this Bill. in Ireland you have two classes of criminals—the Tory. and the Nationalist. The Tory is sure to get off. He gets off by this machinery; he has the right under the Crimes Act to ask for a special jury. That is to say, he is entitled to ask for an Orange jury, and having got an Orange jury he is certain of acquittal, or the ground is left open by changing the venue; in the same way as the Walkers were tried in Belfast. Having murdered a policeman, and wounded a second policeman, another man was hanged for it. So far as I am concerned, I shall upon every occasion expose the way in which trials are conducted in Ireland. I would refer to the case of the abominable scoundrels who were acquitted without a stain on their characters in connection with the trial of French and Cornwallis. What is done is this—they are tried by a jury of their own class. Now, take this Bill. If it becomes law—and I rejoice that the noble Lord has nearly passed it—a Poor Law Guardian in Ireland who has given a contract he ought not to have given, would have a tremendous case made against him. Though, perhaps, the action was hardly worth looking at, it would be brought to Belfast, and it would be trumpeted about that a change of venue had been obtained, and that probably the man would be convicted. It would be regarded as a great case against granting Local Government in Ireland. But if you take the case of Mr. Clement Smith and men of that class, when they have to stand their trial, the change of venue is comfortable; they can ask for special juries, they have the right of challenge, and they have the means of getting off. Unfortunately, secret societies prevail in Ireland—the Orange Society and Freemasons, men belonging to Conservative politics, and a man of their side in politics is certain of acquittal. He can never be convicted. He may commit murder or any other crime, he has no chance of conviction. The machinery which has done this for him is the Crimes Act, which gives him the right to a special jury of his own class. I move this new clause.

New Clause (Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act, 1887, shall not apply to any trial under this Act)— (Mr. T. M. Healy)—brought up, and read the first time:—

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause be read a second time."


I cannot possibly assent to this Clause at the present stage, and I would submit to the hon. and learned Gentleman that it would be very much better to raise the matter on Report.


I would earnestly appeal to my hon. and learned Friend to consider this Clause, because it is obvious that the provisions of the Crimes Act in Ireland contemplated totally different proceedings than could possibly arise under this Bill. I do implore my hon. and learned Friend to give me what assistance he can in passing this Bill. The Clause of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite is perfectly legitimate in that it provides that exceptional legislation should not be taken to apply to ordinary matters. I earnestly appeal to my hon. and learned Friend not to oppose this Clause, but to let the Bill go through Committee with that Amendment, and then if on Report, if on consideration it was found necessary, it could be struck out.


I see the difficulty in which the Attorney General is placed. But I would point out that there may be a case of intimidation under the Crimes Act in Ireland, and, therefore, the object is to take care that the machinery of that enactment shall not be strained to apply to an offence under the Corrupt Practices Act. I think, however, that it is very improbable that there would be any clashing of the two Acts; yet I would join in the appeal made by the noble Lord to the Attorney General. I do not think he would be giving way unduly, because his rights would be preserved. I am sure this Bill ought to pass, and I appeal to the indulgence of the Committee now to allow this matter to be taken, while reserving to the Attorney General the full right of further consideration. If it is found that it is not to be allowed, then it can be struck out on Report.


I very much regret that it is impossible I can acquiesce. The clause could be inserted in Report as well as struck out. I do not consider it would be right to concede a principle brought forward as it is now.


I should have thought the learned Attorney General for England would have remembered what occurred last year when he refused to take the advice of his right hon. and learned Friend, in the case of a Bill to which he was very much attached, namely, the Criminal Evidence Bill. The hon. Member for Bury tendered him advice upon a point, he refused to take it, and he did not get his Bill.

It being One of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.

It being after One of the clock, Mr. Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.

House adjourned at five minutes after One o'clock.