§ MR. BRYAN
said, he wished to ask Mr. Attorney General for Ireland, If his attention has been drawn to a statement publicly made to the effect that the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench in Ireland, when passing sentence of death on a prisoner at Tullamore last year, was unable to read the sentence, although it was written for him in large handwriting, and that his Lordship required and had the assistance of some other person in the performance of that solemn duty, and whether that statement is substantially correct?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAWSON)
said, he must beg to say that the statement to which the hon. Gentlemen referred was substantially correct.
§ MR. LEFROY
said, he hoped the House would allow him to say a few words on behalf of his father, more particularly as he felt that the right hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, who was supposed to be a supporter of the law of the country, and therefore of its administrators, had failed in the performance of that duty to do justice to his (Mr. Lefroy's) relative. He would not on that occasion trespass on their attention with any evidence as to the competency of the Chief Justice, but would confine himself to the point now before them. The event referred to took place in August last year, 354 when a most important trial came on before the Chief Justice. It was the case of a young man who had been murdered, and the evidence was altogether circumstantial. The trial lasted two days, and he maintained that during that trial the Chief Justice was enabled to give constant and unremitting attention to the case. A legal objection was made on some point by the counsel for the prisoner. Not being himself a lawyer, he would not attempt to explain the point in question, but he would refer to the Report of a leading paper published in Dublin, the correctness of which had not been disputed—Mr. Molloy stood up and stated that he had a matter of law to urge upon the Court, on behalf of the prisoner. All the evidence showed that the act was committed and the body found at the Tipperary side of the river, whereas the venue had been laid in the King's County. The Attorney General: I admit the fact, but by the 9 Geo. IV., the offence can be tried in either county, provided it occurred within 500 yards of the boundary. Mr. Molloy: I admit such as the law, but I contend that the fact should have been averred in the indictment to have been so. Counsel cited 'The King v. Browne,' reported in Crawford and Dix's Notes of Cases, where the late Chief Baron Joy decided that an indictment was bad for not averring such to be the case, and also referred to Hayes' Criminal Law, where that case was referred to and recognized. The Attorney General and Solicitor General replied, and contended that the words of the statute were quite plain as enabling the Court to deal with any case arising as aforesaid, and that the fact of being within 500 yards was mere matter of evidence, and need not be set out in the indictment. The Chief Justice said, that as the point had been ruled by so able a Judge as the late Chief Baron Joy, although he did not concur in that decision, yet he would reserve the case for the Court of Criminal Appeal. The Chief Justice proceeded to charge the jury. The jury then retired, and, after about half an hour's deliberation, returned into court with a verdict of guilty. Mr. Warburton, the foreman, stated that a majority of the jury wished the verdict to be accompanied with a recommendation to mercy. Mr. Montgomery stated that he had been requested to state that the recommendation was based on the fact that the prisoner, in committing the act, was strongly under the influence of drink. When the jury recommended the prisoner to mercy the Chief Justice said, 'Gentlemen, may I ask on what grounds?' The foreman said,' Some of the jury think he had taken too much whisky.' The Chief Justice said, 'I must decline to forward your recommendation, as, however anxious I am to pay every attention to the wishes of a jury in any case, and especially one of life and death, I must say I never heard one which from its nature and details less entitled the prisoner to such a recommendation, and it is new to me that the fact of a man wilfully committing one fault is to lesson his crime when he commits a greater one.'The following statement was made by an eminent Queen's Counsel who was present on the occasion:— 355I received your letter of inquiry by this day's post. It is a mistake to say that the Lord Chief Justice at Tullamore was unable to read a sentence written in large handwriting. He does not even use spectacles. I have spoken to the Deputy Clerk of the Crown of the King's County, and, from what he says, and my own recollection, the occurrence at the assizes was thus:—The Deputy Clerk of the Crown always has in a book before him entries of the different forms of oaths, and of the form of sentence in capital cases, &c, and from the first circuit the Chief Justice went, to the present day, whenever a prisoner was to be sentenced to death, a copy of the formal words of the sentence, with a blank for the day of execution, was invariably placed before the Judge on the bench. In the case in question, during the address of the Chief Justice to the prisoner, it occurred to the Judge when he approached that part where the day for execution is named, that in consequence of a point being saved for the Court of Appeal, it became necessary, instead of the usual time, to fix a day after the Dublin Commission, which was then close at hand, and sufficiently remote to enable the other Judges to attend in the Court of Appeal, and although he had previously determined on the day, he had not any memorandum of it, and was obliged to refer to an almanac, which occasioned some delay. I have no note of the trial, and nothing occurred at the time to attract my attention to any defect in the conduct of it, so as to fix it on my mind. Of course I could not see what was before the Judge on the bench, although I was nearer to it than any other of the counsel, but I believe this account of the transaction is perfectly correct. The Chief Justice had previously sentenced another man to death for murder at the same assizes, so that he must have been familiar with the form, and, from all that I have heard or seen, I have no doubt that Mr. Bryan's informant is in error.
§ MR. COGAN
said, he rose to order. Whilst the hon. Member was confining himself to the particular point of what had been said in reference to his distinguished relative, he had no doubt that the House would listen to him with patience; but if he went into the general conduct of the Chief Justice it would lead to a discussion of the whole question, which would be highly inconvenient.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member has extended his observations to an unusual length. I thought it was the pleasure of the House, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, to hear him; but the hon. Member will, no doubt, now see fit to put some limit to his observations.
§ MR. LEFROY
said, he wished to make one more observation if the House would allow him to do so. The Chief Justice, when he returned to Dublin, assembled the Judges, and brought before them this point of law as to which he had himself given an opinion contrary to that of Chief Baron Joy. The Judges having fully con- 356 sidered the matter, agreed with the Chief Justice in opinion.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAWSON)
said, that the House would believe him when he said that he never in his life had to dischrge a more painful duty—
§ MR. HENRY BAILLIE
said, he also rose to order. He wished to ask whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman has moved the adjournment of the House?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. LAWSON)
said, he must repeat that he had never discharged a more painful duty than when he now rose to answer a question which had been put on the paper without his knowledge; but having been the prosecuting counsel in the case which had been referred to, it was impossible for him to do anything except to answer the question briefly and with a desire to avoid discussion as much as he could. But as the hon. Member had cast a doubt upon the correctness and accuracy of his statement he would state simply what occurred in his presence on the occasion in question. The day on which the execution was to be carried out had been arranged beforehand, and the Officer of the Court wrote out in large writing for the Chief Justice the sentence to be pronounced, and the Chief Justice proceeded to pronounce it, but was totally unable to do so in the legal form. He omitted in the sentence a material direction, the omission of which would have rendered the sentence bad in point of law. It became, upon this, his duty as Attorney General, prosecuting for the Crown, to call the attention of the Chief Justice to the irregularity and the omission in the sentence; and he was obliged himself to stand near him at the bench, and ask him to repeat over again in legal form that sentence, and he actually dictated to him the sentence in the legal form, which the Chief Justice delivered. These were the simple facts, and his statement of them could be verified by those present.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he felt it to be his duty to make one observation on this 357 question, which, if it had been fully brought forward instead of by a dark question, would have appeared to be a most miserable ground of cavil raised nine or ten months after the facts occurred. Now, what were the facts? The circumstances, as he understood them, were these:—An officer who went out to shoot was inhumanly assassinated by the person who accompanied him in the boat, and the assassin was prosecuted by the officers of the Crown. After the Chief Justice had completed the assize business he was asked to adjourn the assizes and to return again to Dublin to try this important case, and though this was not a very pleasant tiling, he said that he would do so, and the trial took place. The notes of that trial, in his own handwriting, filled twenty-two pages, and contained every word of the evidence in the case. The prisoner's counsel, as all prisoner's counsel did when they had a point of law, laid by until the end of the trial, and then he said that the indictment was inaccurate, as the man had committed the crime within 500 yards of the county, but not within the boundary of the county in which the venue was laid and that there ought to have been an averment to this effect. A discussion arose immediately before it was now said that a fit of incompetency overtook the Chief Justice. Cases were quoted, and he was told that Chief Baron Joy had decided in favour of a prisoner under similar circumstances; but the Chief Justice said that he did not agree with the Chief Baron, but as there had been a decision the other way he would reserve the point for the Court of Criminal Appeal. The proceedings went on, the Chief Justice delivered a long and feeling address to the prisoner; but when the formal words of the sentence were placed before him he in going through them, as he had already done in the case of another prisoner, noticed that the point raised by the prisoner's counsel would alter the time fixed for the execution. The learned Judge himself said that when he came to the date he hesitated; and the gravamen of the charge against him was that he who had conducted this long trial hesitated when he took up the paper. When this occurred it was past seven at night, and he believed that the Court House was not very brilliantly lighted. The Chief Justice delayed for a moment before he completed his judgment. The same Judge who did that—who mistook what was on that piece of 358 paper—had the capacity immediately to state the whole circumstances to the Secretary of State, and to request him to have the question discussed before the Judges, so that justice might not be delayed. The Chief Justice presided in that Court, gave his opinion, and the other Judges deferred to his judgment, and the prisoner was executed. He (Mr. Whiteside) had rather a curious interview with the Chief Justice. Chancing to be in Wicklow he called upon him, in the month of August, and found him engaged upon an Act of Parliament. He told his Lordship that he should have thought that he had had enough of law before that period of the autumn, but he told him (Mr. Whiteside) that he was engaged upon a point of law, and he also told him in a most clear manner what it was. He (Mr. Whiteside) could not but think that it was strange, this matter having occurred in August, should be brought before the House only in May; and he confidently put it to the House whether they thought that there had been any substantial defeat of justice in the case.
§ MR. BRYAN
said, he must beg to explain that he had put the Question in consequence of a speech in the other House. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman would look at the Votes he would see upon them a Motion which he (Mr. Bryan) intended to bring forward on an early day, on going into Supply, in order that the whole subject might be properly ventilated. He could assure him that he had not taken the subject up in the light of a personal matter, and he would pledge himself to submit his Motion to the House at as early a period as possible.