HC Deb 26 April 1898 vol 56 cc1215-6

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney General for Ireland (1) whether his attention has been drawn to a report of the proceedings in the Northern Division Police Court, Dublin, on a charge of murder against Miss Louisa Browne, on 31st March and 1st April, from which it appears that the magistrate declined to hear evidence tendered on behalf of the accused upon the ground that the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, limits his powers to the taking of the depositions of witnesses for the prosecution; (2) whether he is aware that such refusal is contrary to the usual practice in Ireland, as laid down in a work of high authority (Constantine Molloy's "Justice of the Peace"); and (3) whether, if the refusal of the magistrate to take such evidence is technically correct, he will introduce legislation to assimilate the law in Ireland to the law in England upon this subject?


The facts are substantially as stated in the first and second paragraphs of the Question. The fact that a Statute was required in England to make it compulsory on the magistrates acting under Statutes similar to the Irish to take depositions of the witnesses of the accused shows that the Irish magistrate mentioned was not bound to do so in this case, but that by no means establishes that the existing practice is illegal. I have no reason to apprehend that the practice will not be generally followed as heretofore, and however desirable it may be to assimilate the law in the two countries on this point I am not in a position, in the present state of business, to undertake to introduce legislation with that object this Session.