HC Deb 08 February 1900 vol 78 cc934-5
MR. AUSTIN (Limerick, W.)

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland under what circumstances and for what reason the Crown at the Winter Assizes in Cork declined to proceed with the prosecution of Mr. Michael Curtin on the charge of being implicated in the poisoning of hounds in West Limerick; whether the resident magistrate who returned Mr. Curtin for trial gave no opportunity for him to be legally represented, and refused bail, although such was forthcoming to the extent of several thousand pounds; could he state what was the nature of the evidence offered upon which Mr. Curtin was detained in custody and committed to County Cork gaol for a fortnight; and, considering the circumstances, what steps will be taken to recoup Mr. Curtin for the expense he has incurred in providing legal means for his defence against a charge with which the Crown did not proceed.


Mr. Michael Curtin was returned for trial for this offence by Mr. John French, R.M, on the 28th November to the Winter Assizes at Cork, which commenced on the 1st December. There was no time in the interval to obtain an analysis of the contents of the stomachs of the hounds alleged to have been poisoned, and accordingly the Counsel representing the Crown, Mr. Matthew Bourke, Q.C., directed that a bill should not be sent up to the Grand Jury, and that the accused should be discharged from custody. The evidence contained in the depositions disclosed a case of strong suspicion against Mr. Curtin, but was insufficient, in the opinion of counsel to justify putting him upon his trial. I cannot in reply to a question give the evidence in detail. Mr. Curtin was detained in custody for seven days, and the expenses of his witnesses, amounting to £17, were paid by the Crown. There is no foundation for the statement that the committing magistrate refused to give Mr. Curtin an opportunity of obtaining legal assistance. Mr. Curtin was arrested at 9 a.m., and his case was not taken up by the resident magistrate until the afternoon. He had ample time to obtain that assistance if he so desired. At the time of his arrest he was asked by the police if he desired to retain a solicitor to defend him, and replied in the negative. After the depositions had been completed Mr. Curtin asked for an adjournment in order to employ a solicitor, but his request was properly declined. The magistrate, in his discretion, refused bail. There is no fund available to pay the expenses mentioned in the last paragraph.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the political action of Mr. Curtin at the last local government elections had anything to do with the prosecution?


What course does the Crown propose to take with regard to the witnesses who were examined before the resident magistrate?


They will be examined again should there be a second trial.


Will they not be prosecuted for perjury?


Order, order!