HL Deb 15 May 1862 vol 166 cc1740-2

, who had given notice to move an Address for— Copies of the Criminal Calendar of each County, and of any Reports upon the State of Crime in the County, presented to the Judges by the Inspectors of Police at the last Assizes in Ireland: Return of all Homicides and Aggravated Assaults that have been committed in Ireland within the last Twelve Months, and of the Trials of Persons accused of such Crimes and the Result of each Trial"— said, that the subject to which his intended Motion referred was one of importance, and, considering the amount of money paid for the prevention of crime, it was astonishing that the exertions of the Government in that respect were not more successful. The state of Ireland generally was by no means such as could be called disturbed; and the people, generally speaking, had less inclination to crime and violence than any other people in the world; but, unfortunately, there was a feeling prevalent among them that when a wrong was supposed to have been done the injured person should take the redress of their own grievances into their own hands; and this notion had not only produced a frightful amount of crime and assassination, but had also most unhappily produced a most culpable mode of viewing the perpetration of such crimes; so that when murders had been committed, it too frequently happened that the assassins remained undiscovered. He attributed the latter result to the military character and organization of that force to which the name of constabulary had been given, and to which the military character was no longer so much wanted. In old times there used to be strong and organized parties in the country ready to resist the Government and the law, and serious conflicts occurred; and, consequently, at that time it was wise to give a military character, more or loss, to the constabulary; but at present he objected to their being disciplined as a body of soldiers, disallowing them the liberty of action of ordinary constables. The consequence was, that when crime was committed, it was not always by the connivance of the people that the perpetrator escaped. A case had come under his own observation in which three men returning from a country fair picked up a quarrel with two persons unknown to them, and one of the latter was so severely beaten that he died in a few days. The outrage was committed about six o'clock in the afternoon, and there was not a person within five or six miles round that did not know who all the parties wore. Information was given to the police; but as the post had gone out at the time, and they were forbidden to send a messenger to the stipendiary magistrate or to communicate with him except by letter, they were under such strict discipline that they did not stir out to get a warrant to apprehend the offenders, or to make the facts known to their commanding officer, who lived about four miles away. The consequence was that they were not able to despatch a letter to the magistrate or the officer before the next evening, and it was not received until the day after the occurrence. Fortunately, however, the matter was well known to the public, and the magistrate and police officer did not wait for the arrival of the formal notice, but went off at once to take the informations of the injured men. A boy who had taken very little part in the outrage was arrested at home. The other and more guilty persons absconded when in their sober moments they found what a serious offence they had committed; one gave himself up ten days after, and the other remained at large until the time of the assizes drew near, when he also surrendered himself, and the men were found guilty and punished. That case would show how injurious was this discipline of the police, and how it interfered with their action. Last year he took occasion to quote the opinion of Judge Lefroy on the subject; and at the last assizes three judges, one of them being a new and distinguished ornament of the bench, Judge Christian, stated in their charges that there was a vast disproportion between the number of offences in the Report submitted to them by the County Inspector, and those which appeared in the Calendar. The constabulary numbered about 12,000 men, and, if efficient, would be far more than was required for police purposes, considering the diminished population and improved condition of Ireland. A mistaken opinion prevailed as to the riband system. He had taken at one time an active part in putting down that system, and he could state that it had never been so perfect as was supposed, and anything more absurd than the idea that the organization was perfect and extensive could not be conceived. It was, of course, part of the policy of the ribandmen to pretend that their organization was extensive, but in the cases which had happened lately, it was well known that it was the individuals who fancied themselves aggrieved that had committed the crime. Something must be done to repress crime in Ireland. The Government would never get together a better set of men and officers; and if the police were only told that they were not soldiers, but constables, their zeal and intelligence would do the rest. He understood that Returns had been presented to the House of Commons which embodied the information he desired their Lordships to possess, and he would not therefore put the country to the expense of having the Returns printed, for which he had intended to ask; he would, instead of moving for the Returns indicated in his notice, move for those which had been laid before the other House; namely— Return of outrages reported to the constabulary officers in Ireland during the year 1861, with Summaries of preceding years; and also Return of Outrages reported by the constabulary in Ireland during the month of April 1862.


said, that there would, of course, be no objection to the Motion. He thought the noble Marquess would find in the Returns laid before the House of Commons more information than he had asked for.

Motion agreed to.