HC Deb 11 June 1902 vol 109 cc367-8

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (1) whether he is aware that two magistrates, Messrs. Howell and Brown, at a special court held under the Criminal Law and Procedure (Ireland) Act, in Sligo on Friday last, postponed the trial of the hon. Member for North Leitrim, Mr. McTernan, and Mr. Quilty, notwithstanding the repeated assurances of Counsel for the Crown that they were ready to proceed, and the repeated protests of Mr. John Muldoon, Counsel for two of the defendants; (2) Whether he is aware that these magistrates, without application on the part of the Crown, issued a warrant for the arrest of this hon. Member; (3) Has he taken the opinion of the law advisers of the Crown as to whether, in the absence of one defendant, it is possible to proceed with the prosecution of two other defendants in a conspiracy charge; and will the general conduct of the magistrates in the trial receive the attention of the Government.


My attention has been called to the matter referred to. The facts are inaccurately stated in the Question. The application made by the Counsel for the Crown to the magistrates was, either to proceed against the hon. Member for North Leitrim in his absence, as he had been served with a summons and failed to appear with his alleged confederates to meet the charge; or, if not, to compel his appearance in the mode pointed out by statute, namely, by the issue of a warrant for his arrest, so that he might not successfully evade justice. The magistrates chose the latter alternative. In doing so, they acted entirely within their rights. I must decline to disclose the advice received by the Executive from the law officers in reference to the legal points involved in a pending prosecution, or to express any opinion on the action of the magistrates in such prosecution.


But is it not the fact that the gentleman representing the Crown did not apply for the warrant, but desired to go on with the case in the absence of the defendant?


I believe he was in favour of proceeding with the case, but the magistrates chose the other alternative. I have no power over the magistrates in such a matter.


Were not these magistrates sent down from Dublin Castle to try the case?