HL Deb 17 July 1899 vol 74 cc976-7

My Lords, I beg to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps have been taken to enforce the Wild Birds Act (Ireland). In 1880, or thereabouts, the police used to post up printed notices of the birds protected by the Act, but in consequence of a footnote in Sir Andrew Reid's Irish Constables' Guide, which stated that the Constabulary were not to enforce the Act, the Constabulary ceased to enforce it. The Inspector-General has now directed that the Act should be enforced, but it is not strongly enforced. I am told that for the first offence the offender is cautioned, and a second offence is reported to the district inspector for consideration as to whether the prosecution should be instituted. I do not consider this is properly enforcing the Act. A friend of mine informs me that on visiting a police barracks a day or two ago to see the form of notice, he found it posted on the notice board with its face to the wall. I do not think that is an enforcement of the Act. In the wilder parts of Ireland, such as the west coast and some portions of Donegal, the birds are entirely unprotected, and I therefore ask Her Majesty's Government to see that the Act is more stringently enforced.


My Lords, the noble Earl is no doubt aware that the police are not obliged to enforce these Acts, and the reason why no action was taken at the time mentioned by the noble Earl was that, as the country was disturbed, and the work of the police very severe, it was not considered advisable to add to their duties. That objection no longer exists, and on the 9th May last a circular was issued by the Inspector-General, with the approval of the Irish Government, to the Royal Irish Constabulary directing them to enforce the Wild Birds Protection Acts of 1880 and 1894, and placards were accordingly posted at all the Royal Irish Constabulary barracks in Ireland. The Constabulary have been directed to first warn any person offending against the law before a prosecution is instituted. When the public are thus made aware of the law, should it be found that in any district its provisions are disregarded, the offenders will be prosecuted without warning. The requirement that a constable shall report an offence to his superior, and obtain instructions before instituting a prosecution, is not intended in any way to weaken the action of the police, but is in accordance with the general practice governing prosecutions by the force. If it is reported to the Inspector-General that in any district the law is flagrantly violated, he will insist upon its rigid enforcement without previous warning to offenders. The case mentioned by the noble Lord, in which one of the notices was placarded with its face to the wall, is, I hope, an isolated one, and I am certain that if the noble Earl will direct the attention of the Inspector-General to any case of the kind it will be remedied.