HC Deb 09 March 1915 vol 70 cc1310-1

In Ireland a person charged with an offence against any regulations made under The Defence of the Realm (Consolidation) Act, 1914, before a court-martial shall not, nor shall the wife or husband as the case may be of a person so charged, be a competent witness, whether the person so charged is charged severally or jointly with any other person.—[Sir J. Simon.]

Proposed Clause brought up, and read the first time.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

The moving of this Clause is due to a suggestion put forward by the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. T. M. Healy). As the hon. and learned Member pointed out, the Criminal Evidence Act of some years back, though it applies to England and Wales, does not apply to Ireland, and consequently some special provision should be made to prevent that distinction, which is quite deliberate, from being overlooked when we are dealing with proceedings under the Defence of the Realm Act. If that were not done, this absurd result would follow—that if a British subject, charged with committing an offence against the Defence of the Realm Regulations in Ireland, chose to claim to be tried by a judge and jury, he could not give evidence, whereas if he left himself to be dealt with by a court-martial he could do so. Whichever principle is right—that an accused person should give evidence if he wishes, or that he should be incapable of giving evidence—it is unarguable that there should be one result if he chooses one tribunal and another result if he chooses another tribunal. Therefore I beg to move this new Clause, which will, I hope, meet my hon. and learned Friend's point, and secure that in the administration of the Defence of the Realm Act in Ireland the understanding will be preserved by which the Criminal Evidence Act does not extend to that country.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause added to the Bill.