§ SIR J. COLOMB (Great Yarmouth)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that on the 5th May last two men were convicted at Killorglin Petty Sessions for illegal fishing with a fixed net on the 1st April at Dooks, and were fined £50 each by the magistrates, being the minimum statutory penalty for this offence, stating at the same time that if the men memorialised for a reduction of the penalty, the Bench would recommend the fine being reduced to five pounds each; will he explain why the Lord Lieutenant, without consulting or referring to the Bench of Magistrates, let the men off paying any fine at all, with the result that the Board of Conservators are out of pocket to the extent of £2 10s. expenses of prosecution, while the convicted culprits get off scot-free; and whether the Irish Government are aware that the local inspector of the Board of Conservators has since been stoned, that the law-breakers are triumphant at the opinion of the Bench of Magistrates being thus ignored, and that the officials engaged in maintaining the public interests and public rights, under statutory authority, are correspondingly discouraged and discredited.
§ MR. G. W. BALFOUR
The facts are as stated in the first paragraph of the question. The Lord Lieutenant in remitting the penalties was not exercising any prerogative of mercy on the merits. A legal doubt exists as to whether magistrates have a summary jurisdiction to impose the penalties provided by the 16th Section of 32 & 33 Vict. c. 92, the enactment under which the proceedings were taken, and his Excellency did not feel himself at liberty to disregard the advice given on the subject by a succession of Law Officers of the Crown which had been acted on in all similar cases. The Lord 682 Lieutenant recognises the importance of having an authoritative pronouncement on the legal point at issue. He is advised that this can best be secured if the magistrates at Killorglin Petty Sessions, or any other Petty Sessions before whom a charge shall be brought under the Statute quoted, will act on the opinion of the Law Officers referred to, and formally dismiss the case for want of jurisdiction. A case could then be stated at the instance of the prosecution and the question of jurisdiction determined by a decision of the superior court.