§ MR. JASPER TULLY (Leitrim, S.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—(1) whether he is aware that at the Mullingar Petty Sessions, on Saturday, 13th April last, the local excise officer brought a prosecution against a resident of the town, charging him with drawing a revolver and threatening to shoot him when he 905 entered his shop for the purpose of levying income tax which the defendant was declining to pay; (2) whether he is aware that the excise officer was corroborated by a witness, who was in the employment of the defendant, and that the defence was that the threat to shoot was a joke, and that the resident magistrate, Major O'Brien, who presided, announced the decision of the Court that he dismissed the case; and (3) whether, as the excise officer acted under the direction of his authorities in bringing the prosecution, he will order an inquiry, and direct the attention of the Lord Lieutenant to Major O'Brien's action in this matter?
§ MR. JAMES TUITE (Westmeath, N.)
Before the right hon. Gentleman answers may I ask him if he is aware that there were six magistrates on the Bench during the hearing of the case instead of one as implied by the question; that the witness referred to in the second paragraph swore that the defendant had no revolver in his hand as alleged; that a magistrate of the county Westmeath swore that the defendant in his presence immediately after the occurrence apologised to the plaintiff for what had taken place, that the plaintiff accepted the apology, and that the case was dismissed by the unanimous decision of the Bench. Further, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the plaintiff did not take out a summons for about six weeks after the occurrence?
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY,) New-castle-on-Tyne
I am not sure that I am acquainted with all the details just now set out by my hon. Friend, but I am informed that the facts are generally as stated in the question. The evidence on both sides was gone through very carefully before the Bench, consisting, I think, of five magistrates, and the hon. Member who puts the supplementary question is quite right in saying that they were unanimously of opinion that neither the complainant nor anyone else was in danger from the defendant, and that they unanimously dismissed the case on its merits. Although, of course, I cannot pretend to approve of such a proceeding, even though practised by way of a joke, I do not think the case 906 requires the action suggested by the third paragraph of the question.
MR. JOHN MORLEY
I think the only course open to the Crown is to convey a warning to the defendant through the police to be more careful in the use of arms in future, and I should think that is a lesson which does not need all the forces of the Crown to be brought to bear to bring home to them.