HC Deb 08 December 1893 vol 19 cc808-11

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether, in reference to a claim for malicious injury by Mr. Lewis, J.P., at Woodfort Sessions, regarding which it was officially stated there was no opposition to the claim, his attention has been directed to a letter by Mr. Michael P. Holland, who states he was on the Bench that day as an associated cesspayer, and voted against the presentment on the ground that no evidence had been offered that the injury complained of was malicious, and that Mr. Flahy, the only other cesspayer present, voted the same way; whether he is aware that the presentment was irregularly carried by the casting vote of Mr. Tener, J.P., agent of the Marquess of Clanricarde, whom Mr. Lewis had voted into the chair for that purpose; and whether, having regard to these facts and the false report of the proceedings supplied, the Government will take steps to have the presentment quashed and bring the conduct of Messrs. Tener and Lewis to the attention of the Lord Chancellor?


The hon. Gentleman has been good enough to bring under my notice the letter referred to in the first paragraph, and a further official Report fully bears out the statements contained in that letter. The District Inspector explains that his original Report had reference to the final passing of the presentment for a sum of £20. This portion of the proceedings was settled without discussion and without vote. It was as a previous question, no doubt a very material one, whether there was malice, that the voting referred to by Mr. Holland took place. The District Inspector states that there was much confusion and talking at the Sessions, and there being no vote on the question of the award of, a sum of £20, he was led to believe, though erroneously, that no casting vote had been given in the case. The District Inspector is an officer of considerable experience and with an excellent record, and I am assured, and believe, that the error into which he fell in his earlier Report was quite unintentional. As to the second paragraph, I am advised that the Chairman at Presentment Sessions has a casting vote, and that this power is conferred for the purpose of insuring that a definite and positive result may be arrived at. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary has already stated that in the ordinary course the award in the present case will have to be confirmed by the Judge at Assizes, when it will be open to any cesspayer to traverse the presentment, but I am advised that the matter is not one in which the Executive can in any way interfere.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider the point raised in the second paragraph of the question that Mr. Lewis in whose interest the presentment was made before he vacated the Bench voted and moved Mr. Tener into the chair, and thereby gave him the casting vote, which he afterwards exercised in Mr. Lewis's favour; and having regard to the fact that no Magistrate can take part in a matter in which he is personally interested, will he consider the advisability of taking steps to quash the presentment so irregularly arrived at.


As I understand the law the Executive Government could not interfere in the case in any way, and there is no jurisdiction in the Chief Secretary to interfere in the matter. It must be left to the Judge of Assize. As regards what took place on the occasion, I am informed that the facts are these. There were at the time only two Magistrates present—Mr. Tener and Mr. Lewis —and under the Act it was necessary that one of the Magistrates should take the chair. Mr. Lewis could not take the chair, as his case was coming on, and it was therefore necessary that the other Magistrate should take it, and whether or not it was desirable that he should be moved into the chair by Mr. Lewis the result would be the same.


Having regard to the action of these two gentlemen who, according to the official statement played into each other's hands, will the right hon. Gentleman bring the conduct of these gentlemen before the Lord Chancellor?


I should suppose that the matter was hardly grave enough for any official notice to be taken of it by the Lord Chancellor.

MR. BYLES (York, W. R., Shipley)

May I ask whether these two gentlemen, one the agent and the other the landlord of the two disputed estates in the whole county, are not really engaged in using their Magisterial authority to award compensation to one another for malicious injuries?


I do not understand that the facts are as my hon. Friend seems to suppose. I do not think I could profitably add anything to the full statement I have already made.

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

Will the right hon. Gentleman make any communication to the District Inspector upon the fact that his Report, upon which a previous answer of the Chief Secretary was founded, suppressed the entirely material circumstance that the two cess- payers who formed half the Court on the occasion were of opinion that the injury was not malicious?


In reply to my hon. Friend, I have to point out that I have already endeavoured to state to the House that the District Inspector made a mistake, a pardonable mistake, because he, in the confusion and noise which appears to have prevailed at the time, supposed that the only material question was the question of compensation, as to which, in point of fact, no casting vote was given, and overlooked the fact that there had been a previous division. From all that I can learn in the matter, although there was an error on the part of the District Inspector, it was a perfectly innocent error, and one in reference to which I acquit him of having any design.


I differ from the right hon. Gentleman as to the view taken by him of the action of the District Inspector, and I beg to give notice that as soon as I can do so, without disarranging the course of Government business, I will submit to the House that notice must be taken of the conduct of any subordinate official in Ireland who deceives the Government, and in deceiving the Government deceives the House of Commons.


I see no reason to believe—in fact, I am convinced to the contrary—that the District Inspector did intend to deceive the House.

MR. MCDERMOTT (Kilkenny, N.)

I may state for the information of the House that I was present on the occasion in question, that the District Inspector was not present at all, but the Secretary of the County Galway Grand Jury was present.