HC Deb 27 February 1900 vol 79 cc1224-5

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he is aware that a man named Patrick Kavanagh, of Eurzyditch, County Wicklow, was, by order of the Vice Chancellor of Ireland, detained in prison for contempt of court during the period of one year and 237 days; that at the end of that time he was transferred from Kilmainham Gaol to the Richmond (Dublin) Lunatic Asylum, and that he is still in the Richmond Lunatic Asylum; whether during his incarceration he was examined, and how often, as to his health and mental condition by a physician experienced in mental diseases; and at what time during Kavanagh's detention of a year and 237 days was he found to be of unsound mind; and what offence did he commit in contempt of the Court of Chancery.


The facts are correctly stated in the first paragraph. Kavanagh was the defendant in a suit in the Court of Chancery, in which a certain holding of his was sold and purchased by a man named Dolahunt, who obtained possession from the sheriff. Kavanagh's contempt consisted in interfering with the sheriff in giving possession to Delahunt, disturbing Delahunt in the possession of the holding, and retaking possession from him. During the period of Kavanagh's imprisonment he was frequently examined by the medical officer of the prison, the late Dr. Carte, a physician of experience in mental and bodily disease. He was also examined by Mr. Woodhouse, the medical member of the Prisons Board. During the last six months of his imprisonment he was under special observation. His manner in prison was always peculiar, but there was little change in it until within a short time of his removal, and he was found to be of unsound mind seven days before his admission to the asylum.

MR. JOHN REDMOND () Waterford

May I ask whether the Government intend to deal in any way with a state of the law by which a man who has not committed any offence except contempt of court can be kept in prison for two years without any trial, and at the end of that time be discovered to be a lunatic.

[No answer was given.]


This seems to be a reasonable question arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's answer. I do not think it is light he should he quite so discourteous.


I had no intention to be discourteous, but this is a question that should obviously be addressed to the First Lord of the Treasury. So far as I know there is no intention to change the law.


Then I address the question to the First Lord of the Treasury.


I understand this question arises out of one on the Paper. I have not seen the question on the Paper, and I knew nothing of the matter until I heard the answer just given. I have often heard, both here and in Ireland, comments on the law of commitment to prison for contempt of court, but I am certainly not in a position to promise any legislation on the subject at the present time.