HC Deb 23 February 1893 vol 9 cc190-1

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland if his attention has been called to the case of Robert Sproule, a farmer, who has been for more than 12 months in Londonderry Gaol a prisoner for contempt of Court, which consisted in withdrawing from an agreement to become a joint surety for the payment of bankruptcy dividends in the case of a neighbour of his who failed for some small amount; if three other co-sureties, although guilty of similar contempt of Court, have been imprisoned or otherwise punished; and if anything can be done to determine Sproule's punishment?


I am informed by the Chief Registrar of the Court of Bankruptcy that Robert Sproule, who has been in prison for the period stated, gave, with three other persons, an undertaking—which was made a rule of Court—to sign certain composition bills. The Court subsequently made an order requiring Sproule and his co-sureties to sign these bills, and on their refusal to do so warrants were issued for their arrest. Sproule alone was arrested, the others evaded arrest. I believe it is open to him to obtain release by signing the bills, but the matter is not one in which the Executive can interfere.


Seeing that this man has been in gaol for a period of more than 12 months, without trial, for a trivial offence, and that the habeas corpus has been practically suspended in his case, will the right hon. Gentleman consider the introduction of legislation to terminate this abuse of the process of contempt of Court?


I will consider the matter.