HL Deb 14 July 1884 vol 290 cc882-5

, in rising to present a Petition from William Barlow Smythe, Esquire, of Barbavilla, Westmeath, said, that there could be no doubt that Mr. Smythe had a grievance to complain of. His case would seem to show that there was some defect in the administration of the law as it at present existed in Ireland, which required amendment. Mr. Smythe, it would be remembered by their Lordships, was returning from church one Sunday in his carriage, in which there were also two ladies. He had just got within his own gate when a shot was fired at the carriage, killing his sister-in-law. It was believed that the shot was meant for Mr. Smythe himself. The crime created a great sensation in the district at the time. In due course steps were taken under the Prevention of Crime Act to follow up the murderer; and, among other things, application was made for compensation for the murder. The charge provided for by the Act was levied on the district—the townland of Barbavilla—and as Mr. Smythe was owner of a good deal of property in the district, the townland in question being almost entirely his property, it appeared to him (the Earl of Courtown) that the Lord Lieutenant could scarcely, consistently with justice, expect that this charge of compensation should be continued to be paid by Mr. Smythe. It came to this—that Mr. Smythe had to share in paying this compensation for the murder of his sister-in-law, and was also asked to pay for his own attempted murder. Naturally he felt surprised at this, and he had applied to the Lord Lieutenant to exempt him from paying his share, under the belief that the Lord Lieutenant had the power to grant such exemption. This supposition turned out to be wrong, the exemption granted by the Lord Lieutenant being in the case of charges for extra constabulary. In these circumstances, Mr. Smythe presented his Petition, and he hoped Her Majesty's Government would be induced to give their serious consideration to the question. He (the Earl of Courtown) thought by an expression of opinion on the part of the Government the Lord Lieutenant might be induced to reconsider the mode of levying the tax, so as to relieve Mr. Smythe from bearing any share of the burden.

Petition read, and presented.


, in supporting the prayer of the Petition, said, that, as he was connected by residence with the district, he desired to say a few words on a matter which he thought was certainly worthy the attention of the Government, as to seeing whether or not something should be done to relieve Mr. Smythe from this burden, so painful in its circumstances. Besides this incidence of taxation referred to, he thought the Government could be little aware of the system of black mail which still prevailed in Ireland, and which had been supposed to be partially suppressed at least by the Prevention of Crime Act. Respectable farmers, shopkeepers, and others, who had no sympathy with agrarian offences, under threats that they would be ruined, had to subscribe to the fund for the defence of the miscreants who had committed this crime, and a very large sum had been collected in this and other districts from very unwilling contributors for similar purposes. He added his testimony regarding the merits of Mr. Smythe. He was a neighbour of his, and he knew what he had done in the way of philanthropic and other good works, and he also knew the reward he had received for so doing.


said, this question arose out of that dreadful tragedy in which Mr. Smythe was the intended victim, but which resulted in the loss of the life of the lady who was seated beside him in his carriage. Mr. Smythe had presented a Petition, representing that he should not be called upon to contribute to the tax which had been imposed upon the district for compensation on account of this horrible crime. He (Lord Carlingford) was informed that under the Prevention of Crime Act, which exclusively regulated this matter, the Lord Lieutenant had no power to exempt any individual, as suggested. Beyond that, the noble Earl must remember that the district and area charged in these cases was not ascertained and fixed at the will and pleasure of the Lord Lieutenant, but after a careful and public inquiry, conducted by competent persons. It was upon the Report presented by the barrister who held this inquiry, after ascertaining all the circumstances of the case, that the area was fixed by the Lord Lieutenant. The Lord Lieutenant felt that it was very important, if possible, to act upon the result of such an inquiry, and the Report which he received from the gentleman who had conducted it. It was, therefore, a very difficult matter for him to alter the area so recommended upon any private application. The Lord Lieutenant, therefore, in this case, as in all other cases, had accepted the area so recommended. As to whether that particular provision in the Prevention of Crime Act might not possibly be improved, when occasion offered, was another matter; but, while quite understanding the wish of the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Courtown) that Mr. Smythe should not be called upon to contribute to the tax imposed upon the guilty neighbourhood, the reasons he had given made it quite impossible for the Lord Lieutenant to alter the decision arrived at.


said, he thought that, under present circumstances, the clause in the Prevention of Crime Act, which levied on a district the compensation to be paid to the relatives of a murdered person, lost its deterrent force. The tax fell so lightly upon the people guilty of crime and their accomplices that they did not mind it much, and they rather rejoiced at seeing their neighbours whom they disliked paying it.

Petition ordered to lie on the Table.