HC Deb 03 May 1898 vol 57 cc166-7
MR. J. G. SWIFT MACNEILL (Donegal, S.)

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney General for Ireland with regard to the question of compensation to Miss Louisa Browne, who was arrested, imprisoned, remanded, and at last committed for trial, at the instance of the advisers of the Crown in Ireland, on a charge of wilful murder, which the Crown have now withdrawn; whether he is aware that in the case of William Habron, who was convicted in August, 1876, of wilful murder at Whalley Range, Manchester, and sentenced to death—a sentence commuted to penal servitude for life—Lord Cross, who was Home Secretary at the period, on 3rd April, 1879, on Habron's innocence having been established, stated in the House of Commons that the Government intended to propose a Supplementary Vote to Parliament for the sum of £1,000 as compensation to Habron; and whether, seeing that in Habron's case the sufferings endured were the effect of a mistaken verdict of a jury, whereas the sufferings in Miss Browne's case are due solely to the action of the Executive Government in instituting the prosecution against her, he will advise the Government to consider the advisability of granting some compensation to Miss Browne?


I am aware of the facts stated in the Question in reference to the case of Habron. But the case of an innocent person like Habron, who was wrongly convicted, bears no possible analogy to that of a person like Miss Browne, who was arrested under circumstances of the gravest suspicion and discharged from prison the moment evidence was given to explain the facts which bore against her. I greatly regret that this lady, whom I believe to be quite innocent, has been caused any inconvenience or suffering, but an investigation was imperative, and the police would have acted improperly had they refrained from arresting her at the time they did. Cases of the kind occur frequently both in this country and Ireland, and there is no precedent for awarding the compensation asked for.


Is it the fact that on the third remand of this lady before the police magistrate her solicitor implored the magistrate to hear evidence on her behalf, and the reply was that he could not unless the Crown closed their case? Did the Crown refuse to produce their witnesses then?


I believe that statement is an exact reversal of the facts.