HC Deb 05 August 1904 vol 139 c1217

To ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland whether his attention has been called to the conviction of a man who was charged recently at Newcastle, county Down, with being drunk and disorderly and assaulting the police, and was fined in £2 with 8s. compensation; and to the fact that Head Constable Smith wrote a letter testifying to the good character of the person convicted; and, if so, will he say if this action is in accordance with police regulations.

(Answered by Mr. Wyndham.) I am informed that the accused was an entire stranger at Newcastle, and that the head constable, who had known him for sixteen years, wrote a letter to the effect stated. It is the constant practice to examine constables as witnesses to character in criminal Courts, and they are bound to give to the Court the assistance of their testimony if appealed to by the accused. The head constable would have acted more regularly, however, had he attended as a witness for the accused before the magistrates; but such letters as this are often written by others. There is no regulation in the force prohibiting the course taken, and, at worst, the head constable was only guilty of a very trifling indiscretion.