MR. PATRICK O'BRIEN
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that the Coroner's jury in the case of Dr. Cross, alleged to have been hanged in Cork about five years ago for poisoning his wife, failed to record a verdict because the executioner Berry refused to obey the Coroners' summons to attend and give evidence as to the cause of death; whether he is aware that in the case of a man decapitated during execution in Kirkdale Gaol the Coroners' jury required the evidence of Berry, who left the gaol and avoided giving evidence; and whether, in consequence of these cases, he will arrange that the executioner to succeed Berry shall attend all inquests on persons executed by him to give evidence if the Coroner's jury so desire?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS,) Birmingham, E.
I have no knowledge of the particular circumstances relating to the inquest on Dr. Cross which took place in Ireland, and which, therefore, concerns the Irish Government and not the Home Office. It is not the fact that the convict executed at Kirkdale was decapitated. According to the newspaper reports, one member of the Coroner's jury asked whether Berry was in attendance, and was informed that he was not, as it did not appear that his evidence was necessary. It is not usual for the executioner to give evidence at the inquest after an execution. I see no reason for giving any directions in the matter. The executioner will, of course, obey the Coroner's orders when the occasion arises.
MR. P. O'BRIEN
In the case of Dr. Cross, who was executed five years ago, is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the executioner admitted that the reason why he deliberately went out of the prison was in order to evade giving evidence before the Coroner's inquest as to how the man was executed? And did not the right hon. Gentleman say, in reply to a question in this House, that the man deliberately walked out of Kirkdale Gaol and refused to give evidence, and did not Berry afterwards explain that he was put out of the way to prevent him giving evidence that would tell against his own department? Is there any reason why the right hon. Gentleman should not see that his successor would attend, if required by a Coroner's jury, and give evidence?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
The Coroner in that distinct case could order him to attend; and if he did not, the Coroner could order process to be taken against him. There is no difficulty whatever about that. The hon. Gentleman has not quite accurately cited the answer I gave on a former occasion. I stated that when Berry left Kirkdale Prison he had not been desired to attend the inquest; nobody wanted him to attend. His evidence was not required by anybody.