HC Deb 12 April 1921 vol 140 cc923-4
Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

(by Private Notice) asked the Attorney-General for Ireland whether the Press has been, or will be, admitted to the court-martial sitting to-day in Dublin to try the prisoners accused of murdering two young men named Kennedy and Murphy on 12th February last at Tolka Bridge, Drumcondra; whether counsel representing the next-of-kin of the murdered men will be permitted to cross-examine witnesses; and whether Crown servants will be permitted to withhold their evidence if so desired?


The admission of the Press to courts-martial is a matter for the court to decide in every case; but I am informed that the court has decided in this case that no grounds have been shown for excluding the members of the Press. In regard to the second part of the question, I beg to refer the hon. and gallant Member to the answer given yesterday to the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Waterson). As to the third part of the question, if the hon. and gallant Member will refer to Section 128 of the Army Act, he will find it therein provided that "the rules of evidence to be adopted in proceedings before courts-martial shall be the same as those which are followed in civil courts in England. Accordingly a Crown witness is bound to give evidence unless he claims that he may incriminate himself, and the Court comes to the conclusion that that is the case.

Lieut. - Commander KENWORTHY

Does that mean that in these cases an Irish civilian could be prosecuted under the Restoration of Order in Ireland Act for refusing to give evidence, whereas a Crown servant could escape all penalty and refuse to give any evidence on the excuse that it might incriminate him?


No, Sir, the case to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers is of a different class. This is a case of trial before a court-martial, and it is for the court to decide whether the person who objects to incriminate himself is justified.

Major M. WOOD

Will counsel representing the relatives of the deceased men be allowed to cross-examine?


Yes, subject to the limitation that I have mentioned so often already, namely, that the court comes to the conclusion that the life of the witness is not endangered.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

If the Press are to be admitted, what objection can there be to counsel cross-examining witnesses?


Obviously, in a case in which the Press are admitted, there will be no objection.