(by Private Notice) asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland if it is a fact that the Connaught Assizes are not in future to be held in the province of Connaught; whether those for Sligo, Leitrim, and Roscommon are to be transferred to Ulster, and those for Galway and Mayo to Leinster; what is the reason for this procedure; who is responsible for it; and whether steps will be at once taken to have reconsidered such a distribution of the work of the Connaught Assizes?
§ Mr. DUKE
An Order, dated 11th November, of the Privy Council in Ireland directs that three circuits for Winter Assizes shall be held this year, the Ulster and Leinster circuits being assigned, respectively, to the counties mentioned in the hon. Member's question. The enactments on the subject do not require that counties should be grouped by provinces for the purpose of Winter Assizes. The arrangements mentioned have reference only to the Assizes for the present year, and the fixing of circuits in future years will depend, as in the past, upon such advice as the Attorney-General may think fit to give, having regard to the number of cases to be tried.
Arising out of the reply, will the right hon. Gentleman say 987 on whose recommendation this extraordinary arrangement of business was come to, and for what reason?
§ Mr. DUKE
I understand the reason to be the economy of time and expense which is effected in concentrating trials, instead of spreading them over a wide area. The course taken, I understand, is that the Attorney-General examines the probable calendars for the respective Assizes, and recommends to the Lords Justices or to the Lord Lieutenant his arrangements for the Winter Assizes accordingly. I do not gather that anything has taken place which is at all outside what is contemplated by the Winter Assizes Act. It is a common practice in this country.
§ Mr. DILLON
Arising out of the reply of the hon. Gentleman, may I ask whether there is any record during the last hundred years of a case in which the Irish Bar took action with a view to economy? Is it not an outrage on the House of Commons to give that as a reason for this action? I beg to give notice that at the very earliest opportunity I shall draw attention to this matter.
§ Mr. SCANLAN
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the changing of Assize towns and the direction for holding the Assizes for Cork in Ulster and in Munster causes the greatest dissatisfaction and shakes the confidence of the people in the administration of justice; and, further, in view of the fact that the judges in Dublin have little or nothing to do all the year round, is there any conceivable reason why the Assizes should not be held in the counties, as they have been hitherto?
§ Mr. P. O'BRIEN
May I ask the Chief Secretary whether it is for want of prisoners that these changes have been made, and can the right hon. Gentleman say if any prisoners are to be tried, and how many?
§ Mr. DUKE
The numbers on the calendars vary very much. I understand that the number of prisoners for trial is small; and on that ground it has been thought a reasonable thing that there should not be Assizes in each county. It is a measure only for the present Winter Assizes, and I hope it will not be regarded as a precedent.
§ Mr. DEVLIN
May I ask whether the number of judges paid £3,500 and £4,500 a year will be reduced and the money given over to the starving people of Ireland?