HC Deb 09 July 1900 vol 85 cc959-60
MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, by direction of the Home Office, female factory inspectors have been sent to Donegal on several occasions, and have instituted legal proceedings against employers in poor districts, where, until local industry was started, emigration was the only resource of the population; what has been the result of those prosecutions, and what expense have they and the visits of the female inspectors entailed on the State; is he aware that, after the dismissal of a recent prosecution under the Truck Act, the Government obtained a mandamus to compel the magistrates to state a case, and the resident magistrate, Mr. Gaussen, B.L., put it in his pocket and took it away to a town thirty miles off, and wrote from thence a letter refusing to return the writ to his brother justices; is he aware that when the majority of the magistrates were thus disabled from complying with the Queen's writ, the Crown solicitor, without informing the High Court of the facts, applied for a writ of attachment against the magistrates for alleged contempt; and that the magistrates were obliged to show cause at great expense to themselves, two of them, Major Johnson and Mr. Boyle, proceeding to Dublin to instruct counsel; is he aware that the Lord Chief Baron, in delivering the unanimous judgment of the Queen's Bench refusing the attachment, declared that he was shocked at the conduct of the Crown solicitor, and expressed regret that the law did not allow costs to be awarded to the justices; and that the High Court subsequently decided that the majority of the magistrates were right in dismissing the prosecution under the Truck Act, and awarded costs to the defendant therein; and will the justices, whose personal conduct and legal decision have now been vindicated, be recouped their outlay in resisting the Conditional Order for attachment.


The hon. Member's question contains suggestions which I cannot accept as an accurate representation of the facts of the cases referred to. But it is true that, owing to the existence of grave abuses on the part of employers in some parts of Donegal, it has been found necessary to take proceedings for the protection of the women who work for them. In some of the cases taken, convictions were obtained and fines imposed. The expenses involved are part of the ordinary cost of the Factory Department. In the case particularly referred to by the hon. Member, the Court did not decide that the magistrates were right in their reasons for dismissing the case; in fact, they said they were wrong, and the ground upon which the Court dismissed the appeal was an entirely different point of law, which I have already explained in the answer which I have just given to the right hon. Baronet. As to that part of the question which relates to the action of the resident magistrate, the Crown solicitor, and the justices, I must refer the hon. Member to the Irish Government.