§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed; "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Mr. Speaker, the other night I asked a distinct question as to the expenses arising under this Bill. It was provided by the sub-section which has been struck out that if a man was taken over to England, all his expenses and those of his witnesses, counsel, and so on would be paid. I have already pointed out that England is much nearer to some parts of Ireland than some parts of Ireland, such as Belfast, are to Kerry and Cork. I must say that if a man engages a solicitor or a counsel in one county, or in one Circuit, and the venue of the trial is changed to a division or a county, or a district where the solicitor or counsel does not practise, the result is to inflict on the accused person the necessity of paying fees to a second counsel and engaging a second solicitor. And it is not only a question of the expense involved. When a person requiring legal advice is in prison, the solicitor has either himself to visit him or to send his clerk, and thereby he obtains the confidence of the prisoner. If you change the venue to some distant place—say, Belfast—you throw the prisoner into the hands of a solicitor of, perhaps, a totally different character. Perhaps the solicitor has found the counsel. It is perfectly notorious that counsel pocket all the fees they get, whether they have earned them or not. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary (Mr. A. J. Balfour) and the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) will not deny that proposition. It would be a very great hardship to the prisoner if he was obliged to fee a second counsel. I will further say that I do not see for one moment why the 1840 counsel or the solicitors of a particular Circuit ought to be Boycotted in favour of the Orange attorneys and barristers of the North of Ireland. I say this with some feeling. You will change the venues to the North of Ireland, and thereby Boycott the entire Circuits of Leinster, Connaught, and Munster. We are entitled, I think, to base a distinct understanding on this question before we allow the House to go into Committee. I am not at all in favour of giving the existing Law Officers any bigger salaries, and I see no necessity for going into Committee if it is only for granting them these little consolations.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I rise merely for the purpose of pointing out that whilst power is to be taken for providing for the expenses and personal charges of counsel and witnesses solicitors are to be omitted altogether. I beg to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it will be competent for me to move an Amendment on this subject in Committee, or whether it is necessary to propose an Instruction now?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
The same question as that which the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) raises now was brought forward the other evening in Committee on the Bill, and I then gave the answer which I must now repeat—namely, that we propose to pay all the costs which the prisoner or accused person will be put to by reason of the change of venue, and that this will be done on the same principle as was adopted in the case of the Act of 1882. I can say, of my own knowledge, that under the Act of 1882 the provision was carried out fairly and liberally, as far as I could judge, and I am not aware that any single complaint was made. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: I complained myself.] I will just explain what I consider a reasonable case of change of venue. Supposing a prisoner is arrested in the County of Cork, I admit it is a reasonable thing that he should have an opportunity of consulting a solicitor in that county. Now, if the venue is subsequently changed to some place upon another Circuit—say, for instance, to Waterford—I think it would be a reasonable thing that a solicitor who goes from Cork to Waterford should receive the proper fee payable 1841 to a solicitor for going from one county to another. But if the venue is changed, as, under most circumstances, it will be changed, to the Waterford Assizes, there are very competent counsel going on that Circuit, and the solicitor only engages his counsel when they come upon Circuit. If the venue had been changed to England, we considered that it was desirable that the prisoners should have the advantage of obtaining the assistance of counsel whom the Irish solicitor might consult. The hon. and learned Member suggests that the venue might be changed after the jury is empannelled. I can quite understand that it would be improper, under such circumstances, to deprive a man of the counsel who had been briefed, and who knew all the circumstances of the case. I know that under the Act of 1882, where arrangements were made to bring such a counsel to the changed venue-[Mr. T. M. HEALY: He would be paid?] He would be paid. That was done under similar clauses in 1882. The hon. and learned Member appears to assume that all these eases are to be transferred to Belfast. Now, under the Act of 1882, there was no change of venue from the South of Ireland to Ulster. There were cases in which the venue was changed from Ulster to other parts of Ireland, but not from the South to Ulster. The cases that would be transferred to the North would naturally be very exceptional cases. As to the point raised by the hon. Member for South Kilkenny (Mr. Chance), the solicitors are covered by the words of the clause.
§ MR. SPEAKER
In answer to the question which was put to me by the hon. Member for South Kilkenny, I certainly think that the Resolution to be proposed in Committee would cover the expenses which would be thought proper for solicitors.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MATTER considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of any allowances that may be made, and Expenses that may be incurred, under the provisions of any Act of the present Session to make better provision for the prevention and punishment of Crime in Ireland."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
In the main I think the answer given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland to my questions before going into Committee was satisfactory; but what I wish to ask is whether rules will be made and hung up in the prisons, so that the prisoners may understand what they are entitled to claim? When a prisoner is subjected to change of venue, the least we can ask is that such rules shall be made, and that he shall be able to understand the purport of them. I have known of many cases of prisoners pleading guilty, simply because they could not afford to keep their witnesses any longer. Anyone who will ask the Judge or the counsel who attended the Winter Assizes of 1881 in Cork will learn that the witnesses for some of the prisoners spent their Christmas in the workhouse, because money was not forthcoming to maintain them, and the prisoners were afterwards obliged to plead guilty because the witnesses could not be kept any longer in Cork. I heard a similar complaint about a case at the Assizes in the town of Omagh. What, then, would be the case when witnesses have to be sent from Kerry or Cork to Ulster, hundreds of miles away? How can an unfortunate prisoner find the railway fare for his witnesses from Cork to Belfast, or, it may be, to Dublin? I may be told that he has only to give the names of his witnesses to the Solicitor for the Crown. Well, what would be the result? They would, every one of them, be examined by a Resident Magistrate under the 1st clause of the Bill. Now that that section has been passed I cannot conceive the possibility of any accused person escaping conviction, however innocent he may be. With this Act in your hands you might charge the Archbishop of Dublin with the Phoenix Park murders, and I would undertake to convict him in the twinkling of an eye with the aid of a packed Dublin or Ulster jury. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Holmes) has stated that the majority of cases will not be brought to Belfast. That may be true when there is no political question involved; but will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us an undertaking that if they are brought to Belfast the special ex- 1843 penses of counsel will be provided? It is no good, as a general rule, for any Catholic counsel to go to Belfast, and hence the Bar there is almost entirely in the hands of a particular section. Of course, a few Catholics are now going the Northern Circuit; hut it is not worth the while of most to do so. I had a case the other day myself, and I gave it to an Orangeman to advise upon, because I was quite sure that the integrity of the Bar was to be relied on. [Ministerial cheers.] Yes; that may be very well when you have educated men concerned; but the poor prisoners will not think so. You must assume that among the prisoners there will be one innocent man. That is not a very large assumption. Well, for the sake of that one innocent man I do think that we should adopt some precautions. I think that when a counsel has to travel from Kerry to Ulster the least that can be asked is that his expenses should be paid.
§ MR. HOLMES
The clause in the Bill contemplates that the Lord Lieutenant, with the consent of the Treasury, should make rules from time to time. I am sorry to say that I cannot assent to the rest of what the hon. and learned Member says. It amounts to this—that if there is a change of venue to Belfast there are to be special fees. I cannot consent to that. It would be perfectly unnecessary when upon a Circuit like the Northern Circuit, where there are, perhaps. 50 or 60 men who honourably carry on the profession of the Bar. I must protest against the idea that amongst those 50 or 60 men you could not find any who would act with integrity. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: I have said the reverse.] I must protest against the idea that there are not to be found on the Northern Circuit counsel of the same ability as gentlemen in other parts of Ireland.
§ MR. CHANCE
The reference of the right hon. and learned Attorney General is, I presume, to a case in which an old friend of the Treasury Bench was plaintiff for the Government and Mr. William O'Brien was defendant. It happened that I was solicitor for the defendant, and I remember I had to take down counsel and to pay the ordinary special retainer. Some distinction should be made in such cases. No doubt the services of excellent counsel can be obtained who practise in the locality; but wit- 1844 nesses will not submit themselves satisfactorily to the examination by counsel as to whom they know nothing, of whom they hear that he is an Orangeman, and so forth, and who they may see on another day prosecuting one of their own Party. But the right hon. and learned Attorney General said nothing about the expenses of witnesses. He did not tell us whether counsel will have to disclose the names of witnesses first before any arrangement will be made as to expenses. We require some pledge that the Crown, having obtained the names of witnesses thus, will not, as has been often done, go to the witnesses and bully, badger, and threaten them in order to get them to give evidence for the prosecution. This is a most undesirable state of affairs; the Crown ought not to interfere in this way, and it ought to be rendered impossible to do so. We want assurance that, the names having been submitted to the Crown Solicitor, that shall not take place which undoubtedly has taken place; that some constable or sub-constable shall not attempt to work up the case for the prosecution by getting at the witnesses for the defence under the stimulus of the reward their zeal may gain.
§ MR. MAURICE HEALY (Cork)
I respectfully ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to give some reply on the point to which his attention has been called by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford. It is really the most important of the three points that have been raised, and one that will have to be fought out either now or at a later stage. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the administration of the Crimes Act in the past was such that no complaint could fairly be made; but I think if he had consulted the counsel for the prisoners he would gather a very different account. It is within my own knowledge and my experience at Winter Assizes that on the point of the expenses of witnesses prisoners have grave causes of complaint. Several such cases have been referred to, and others have come under my personal knowledge in which witnesses brought up from Kerry to Cork have been kept hanging about day after day waiting for the trial in which they were concerned to come on, until they have had actually to go to the poor house, night after night, to get their 1845 food and lodging, owing to the want of means of the prisoner to sustain them. Of course, the natural result is that the bulk of the witnesses have to go away before the trial comes on, and the unfortunate prisoner is left with a very small portion of the evidence he was prepared to bring forward. The rule of the Crown Solicitor is this—I have had experience of it over and over again—that, as sometimes the Court disallow the expenses of a witness because his evidence has been shown to be false, the Crown Solicitor proceeds on the assumption that this is always going to be the case, and will pay no expenses until the trial is over Now, having regard to the fact that the Winter Assizes sometimes last a long time, it is a great hardship, when a prisoner is tried 20, 30, or 40 miles from his home, for him, if not in prison, to maintain himself, and in many cases his witnesses, during a long and uncertain interval of waiting. If criminal cases were taken in any consecutive order like the processes at Sessions, he might calculate when his trial was likely to come on, and not bring up his witnesses until they were likely to be required; but the Crown officials bring on the cases when and how they please; they give no notice; and if the prisoner's witnesses are not there at the minute it is decided to go on, the chances are the case will be heard without them. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says this is a matter to be dealt with by rule rather than by direct enactment; but we ask for some undertaking that when the Lord Lieutenant proceeds to make the rules, which, of course, will be done through his Legal Advisers in Dublin Castle, he will so draw those rules that some justice shall be done to the prisoner; that he will not keep up this barbarous and grossly unfair practice of treating prisoners, so that, in nine cases out of 10, the prisoner is driven to great straits to keep his witnesses, and is sometimes obliged to go to trial without them.
§ MR. HOLMES
I have already said that the expenses of bringing witnesses to the place to which the venue is changed will be borne by the Crown, and as to keeping them while there that is a matter that must be dealt with by rules, which rules will be framed so that justice shall be done, I do not mean to 1846 sny that expenses can be advanced for every possible witness; there must be a certain amount of examination in each instance before that is done. I am sure hon. Gentlemen will see the fairness of that. I cannot give any pledge as meaning that no Crown official shall address a witness for the defence in reference to any particular case. I might as well say that a prisoner or his solicitor has no right to speak to a Crown witness; of course there is the right. So far as the expenses of witnesses who are obliged to go to the place to which the venue is changed, that will be borne by the Crown, and so also as to the expenses of keeping them there, and this will be according to rules to prevent abuses and to secure that justice shall be done.
Question put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That it is expedient to authorise the payment, out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, of any allowances that may be made, and Expenses that may be incurred, under the provisions of any Act of the present Session to make better provision for the prevention and punishment of Crime in Ireland.
§ Resolution to be reported To-morrow.