Some Trials of Which the Writer had Charge
In 1881, 1882, 1883, and 1884,
A Few Observations on Preliminary Investigations
In Criminal Cases.
Crown Solicitor for the County Tipperary.
Ballina, Inquest at
Ballyragget, Inquest at
Bawnogue, Murder at
Belmullet, Inquest at
Burke, Thomas Henry, Esq., Murder of
Byrne, Gerald, Solicitor, Letter of
Carrickshock, Note as to
Cavendish, Lord Frederick, Murder of
Clonbur, Murder at
Concannon, Henry, Solicitor, Letter of
Criminal Investigations, Observations as to
Daly, P. J . B., Solicitor, Letter of
Field, Denis J., Attack on
Gibbons, Thomas, Murder of
Harrington v. Constables
Huddy, Joseph and John, Murders of
Invincibles, Prosecution of
Joyce, John, and others, Murders of
Kavanagh, Sergeant, Murder of
Kenny, John, Murder of
Leinster Bar, Testimonial of
Letterfrack, Murder at
Listowel, Enquiry at
Lord Lieutenant—His Letter
Lough Mask, Murders at
Lyden, John and Martin Murders of
M’Cune, William, Solicitor, Letter of
Maamtrasna, Murders at
Parnell, Mr., Statement of
Phoenix Park, Murders in
Philipstown, Inquest at
Poole, Joseph, Trial of
Spencer, Earl, Letter of
Tipperary Solicitors, Testimonial of
Walsh, James J., Solicitor, Letter of
On the night of Friday, the 1st April, 1887, Mr. Parnell, when speaking in the House of Commons against the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, is reported in the Freeman’s Journal of the following day to have said:—
“I do not believe the Invincible conspiracy would have been broken up, were it not for the denunciation which Mr. Michael Davitt, my honourable friend the member for East Mayo (Mr. John Dillon), and myself, issued on the morning that we heard of the terrible crime in the Phoenix Park. I believe it was that denunciation that shook that conspiracy, and made it possible for the officers of the law in Ireland to make their secret inquiry to stamp out the conspiracy, and to convict the prisoners connected with it.”
Having had charge of the prosecutions, and the best means of knowing every circumstance connected with those cases, I feel bound, in justice to myself, and Mr. Horne, R.M., by whom I was assisted, to say there is not a particle of justification or excuse for that statement, and at the same time to give the following account of how, and by whom, that conspiracy was broken up, and those atrocious murderers discovered and brought to justice.
The assassination conspiracy called “The Invincibles” was formed in the latter part of 1881 by James Carey, in connection with others of higher standing. At that time the Land League had been for some years in existence. Its nominal object was the regulation of rents between landlord and tenant, but its real object the separation of Ireland from Great Britain. The Invincible conspiracy was also established for the latter purpose; the difference between the two bodies being, that the League professed to use only open means, such as public meetings, inflammatory speeches, newspaper articles, &c.; but at the same time it established a most perfect organization, having branches in almost every parish in Leinster, Munster, and Connaught, with a fewr in Ulster, for the purpose of carrying out its decrees, and being afterwards used for such other purposes as might be deemed desirable; whereas the Invincible conspiracy was absolutely secret, and its only means assassination. I do not feel at liberty to go at any length into the question as to whether any and what connection existed between those bodies, or into any minute detail as to the organization or members of the latter, as these are matters which may hereafter become the subject of judicial investigation; but I may point out that, though the Invincibles had no funds of their own, they were liberally supplied from what must have been a well-stocked exchequer, and that arms of the best and most expensive description were purchased and given them by men in a position of life far superior to any of those who have as yet been put on trial.
The head-quarters of the Invincibles were in Dublin; but they also intended to establish branches through all the provinces, and to “remove” all Crown officials and obnoxious persons, in fact, to deluge the country with blood. Their plan was to begin with the Crown Prosecutors; but most of them being unknown to the conspirators, one of the body (Tim Kelly, afterwards hanged for his part in the Phoenix Park murders), applied, shortly after the conspiracy was formed, to an assistant in the photographic establishment of Mr. Chancellor in Sackville Street, to ascertain if he could procure portraits of those gentlemen for the purpose of recognition. The public are aware of their attempt to assassinate Judge Lawson, and of their intention to assassinate Mr. F o rster; but it may not be generally known that they lay in wait on more than a dozen occasions for the latter gentleman, whose escapes were truly miraculous.
It is no wonder the murders in the Phoenix Park forced Mr. Parnell, Mr. Davitt, and Mr. Dillon to issue a manifesto, disapproving of, or, if they chose to call it, denouncing them; but the question is how many believed in their sincerity, and, in the face of facts and dates, it is astonishing how anyone could have had the hardihood to assert that their denunciation in any way assisted the officers of the law in stamping out that conspiracy, or convicting the prisoners connected with it.
The murders were committed on Saturday, the 6th May, 1882, and the denunciation published on the following Monday; let us now see what followed. On the 9th of May, 1882, the Government offered a reward of £10,000 for such information as would lead to the conviction of the murderers, and placed the investigation in the hands of the late Sir Samuel Lee Anderson, Crown Solicitor, and of that extremely efficient officer, Mr. John Mallon, Superintendent of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, assisted by all the other officials in the Castle; but notwithstanding their exertions, and the alleged assistance of Mr. Parnell and his friends, not a particle of evidence beyond that given at the inquests, which was of a formal character, had been obtained down to December, 1882, and, consequently, no arrests were made.
On the 10th of November, 1882, the Government renewed its offer of a reward of £10,000 for evidence that would lead to a conviction, adding a further offer of £5,000 for private information, &c., but none was obtained.
Although the Invincibles were not in the slightest degree affected by the denunciation of Mr. Parnell or his friends, some convictions which had taken place at the Commissions held in Dublin in September, October, and the beginning of November, 1882, to which I will hereafter refer, had a depressing effect on that body, and, to revive their confidence and terrorise jurors from discharging their duty, they determined to “remove” as many of those who had convicted their friends as they could conveniently get at. This led to their murderous attack on Mr. Field, on the 27th of November, 1882, and their intended attack the same day on Mr. Wm. G. Barrett, who fortunately escaped by having on that morning left for Cork, where he remained for some days. Both those gentlemen had served on the jury which convicted Michael Walsh for the murder of Constable Kavanagh, which is hereinafter mentioned.
The attack on Mr. Field roused the authorities to the necessity of taking some active steps to break up the terrible conspiracy which everyone felt to exist, but which, up to this, remained shrouded in mystery; and on the 4th of December, 1882, John Adye Curran, Esq., Q.C., one of the Divisional Magistrates, opened an investigation into it and the Park murders, in the Lower Castle Yard, under the Crimes Act. A great number of persons were brought before Mr. Curran by the police during that month; but no evidence of any value was obtained. I do not know exactly the course pursued during the earlier part of that enquiry; but, from the documents afterwards given me, I find Mr. Curran, during the month of December, took the informations of 14 persons. I presume he found that the great majority of those brought before him either knew or would tell nothing.
In the beginning of January, 1883, I was directed to take charge of the investigations, and, as instructions, was handed— (1) Copies of the evidence at the inquest. (2) Copies of the 14 informations taken by Mr. Curran up to that date, viz.: —
1. Mary Brophy’s, sworn 4th December, 1882.
2. Alice Carroll’s, sworn 5th December, 1882.
3. Michael Farrell’s, sworn 8th December, 1882.
4. William J. Connolly’s, sworn 9th Dec., 1882.
5. James Egan’s, sworn 9th December, 1882.
6. Fras. J. Powell’s, sworn 18th December, 1882.
7. William Meagle’s, sworn 19th December, 1882.
8. John Fry’s, sworn 19th December, 1882.
9. Sarah Hand’s, sworn 19th December, 1882.
10. Stephen Hand’s, sworn 20th December, 1882.
11. Margt. Sharp’s, sworn 20th December, 1882.
12. George Godden’s, sworn 20th December, 1882.
13. Jas. Bermingham’s, sworn 29th Dec., 1882.
14. Robert Farrell’s, sworn 29th December, 1882.
I may say, shortly, of those informations that they left the evidence just as it stood at the time of the inquests—they compromised no one. Farrell’s shews he was a man of great ability, for, although examined at considerable length, he contrived to elude every important question, and not to give his examiners the slightest information.
After receiving my instructions, I spent a couple of days listening to the examination of people brought by the police before Mr. Curran; but no evidence of any value could be elicited from them: they either knew or would tell nothing.
I soon made up my mind that I was only wasting time listening to the examination of such witnesses; and Mr. Alfred George Horne, R. M., who had act with me in the Bawnogue and Letterfrack prosecutions (which are mentioned further on), having been brought to town to assist in the present investigations, and he having taken offices in Dawson Street, I transferred myself to those offices, and, in conjunction with him, opened an independent enquiry.
I found that Mr. Horne had been for some time occupied investigating the statements of some men who had volunteered evidence, such as Westgate, Reilly (a convict in Mountjoy Prison), John Smyth, and others which had to be enquired into, but had all turned out to be unreliable. Mr. Horne and I having come to the conclusion that, out of the many persons in the Park at the time of the murders, some of them must have seen and known the murderers, we decided to see every person who was about the place that evening, and collect what information we could from them; and we resolved not to accept the evidence of any one witness until we had tested its accuracy by the examination of others, and by every means in our power. We accordingly set to work on this plan, visiting the witnesses at their houses, and when we discovered anyone whom we thought could, by possibility, give us any useful information, we had him brought into Dawson Street, where we examined him minutely, and had his evidence taken down in full by two short-hand writers (Constable William Irwin and Sub-Constable John Phillips), both of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who were told off for that duty. We then compared it carefully with the facts which we had learned from others, and if the slightest discrepancy was discovered, we investigated it to the bottom; and when this was done, and we had fully satisfied ourselves of the accuracy and truthfulness of our witnesses, we had their evidence briefed for counsel. In this way, we examined over 100 persons; tome, like those before Mr. Curran, were not disposed to assist us, others to mix up facts and rumour: these we at once rejected; but, before ten days were over, we had got together a great quantity of most important and trustworthy evidence.
Many of those examined were afraid to be seen coming into our offices in the day-time, and we had to take their examination at night, sometimes up to 11 or 12 o’clock, which was particularly hard on Constable Irwin and Sub-Constable Phillips, who, on more than one occasion, had to remain up ali night transcribing their notes, so as to have copies for us in the morning; but they never complained. We endeavoured to keep our proceedings secret; but this was impossible, as our every movement was watched, and it was announced in the public press that a secret enquiry into those crimes was being held by some Government officials, in the south side of the city. As matters turned out, this was all for the best; for it created a feeling of terror and mistrust in the minds of the guilty parties, each of whom became apprehensive that some of the others were giving information; and on the 12th of January, 1883, Robert Farrell swore a full information against his associates in the conspiracy and attack on Mr. Field, but did not in any way refer to the Park murders, at which he was not present. On this information, the following persons were arrested that night:—Joe Brady, Daniel Curley, Tim Kelly, Michael Fagan, Thos. Caffry, Robert Farrell, James Carey, Michael Kavanagh, Joseph Smith, Peter Carey, Joseph Hanlon, Henry Rolls, Ed. M’Caffry, Patrick Delany, Dan Delany, Edward O’Brien, Jas. Mullet, Joe Mullet, William Morony, Laurence Hanlon, Jas. Fitzharris, Thos. Doyle, Patk. Whelan, George Smith, John Dwyer, and Peter Doyle and brought up at the Divisional Police Office next day, when, on my application, they were remanded for a week, and afterwards for a second week, by which time the evidence against them was sufficient to justify a public enquiry, which was commenced on the 3rd of February, 1883, at Kilmainham, before George Keys, Esq., one of the Divisional Magistrates, and continued on the 10th, 15th, 19th, and 20th of that month. On this enquiry, almost every one of those persons was identified as having taken part in the Park murders by witnesses whose evidence had been obtained by Mr. Horne and myself.
The evidence given on the 3rd of February, with the exception of Farrell’s, did not in any way affect Jam es Carey, who assumed a very confident bearing on that day.
On the 10th, Michael Kavanagh, who had become an approver, implicated Carey in the Park murders; but as there was no corroborative evidence, ard Carey knew he would not be convicted on the testimony of approvers if standing alone, his bearing remained unchanged, as it also did during the early part of the 15th, until Michael Glynn, a respectable old man, was examined, and proved that he knew Carey for many years, and that shortly before the murders he saw him sitting on a seat, close to where they were perpetrated, and spoke to him. That moment Carey’s confidence vanished, and next day he was an informer.
Mr. Horne is solely entitled to the credit of having traced out Michael Glynn, whose evidence was the turning-point in the case. He also, on slight information, and with great difficulty, had Emma Jones, who identified Daniel Curley and others, traced out in Scotland; and he discovered several other witnesses, some of whom were very reluctant to be examined, but who each identified one or more of the accused as being present at the murders. Without the assistance I received from Mr. Horne, the successful result of those trials would not have been obtained. On the 20th of February, 1883, all the prisoners, except Patrick Whelan, against whom there was not sufficient evidence, were committed for trial on the charges of conspiracy, the murders of Lord Cavendish and Mr. Burke, and the attempt to murder Mr. Field.
The main facts were all then well known, and several of the accused offered to become informers; but some wanted to make terms not to be required to go on the table as witnesses.
The enquiry was, however, continued by Mr. Curran for a considerable time afterwards, but was mainly confined to tracing the movements of the accused on the day of the murders.
The trials commenced on 10th April, 1883, at the Dublin Commission, before the Honourable Mr. Justice O’Brien. The Crown was represented by the Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, Mr. James Murphy, Q.C. (now Mr. Justice Murphy), and Mr. Peter O’Brien (now Her Majesty’s third Serjeant), instructed by me.
The accused were defended by Dr. Webb, Q.C.; Richard Adams, Q.C.; John O’Byrne, Mathias McDonnell Bodkin, Denis B. Sullivan, and M. C. McEnerny, Esqrs.; instructed by Gerald Byrne, William McCune, and J. J. Walsh, Solicitors.
Joe Brady, Tim Kelly, Daniel Curley, and Michael Fagan were tried, and convicted of the murder of Mr. Burke; Thomas Caffrey pleaded guilty to the same charge. These five were executed. Patrick Delany pleaded guilty to the same charge, and was sentenced to be executed; but his sentence was afterwards commuted to penal servitude for life. James Fitzharris was tried, and convicted of being accessory after the fact to Mr. Burke’s murder, and sentenced to penal servitude for life.
James Mullet, William Morony, Edward O’Brien, Thos. Doyle, Daniel Delany, and Edward McCaffrey, all pleaded guilty to the conspiracy to murder Mr. Burke, and were each sentenced to ten years’ penal servitude. Thomas Martin also pleaded guilty to the same charge, but, owing to his state of health, was allowed to stand out for judgment.
Joe Mullet and Laurence Hanlon were both tried, and convicted of the attempt to murder Mr. Field, and were sentenced to penal servitude for life.
Henry Rolls died in prison.
George Smith, John Dwyer, and Peter Doylewere
discharged without trial.
The witnesses examined against those tried were: —
Wm. Geo. Barrett.
John A. Browne.
Thos. Fras. Carey.
J. W. Connolly.
J . R. Gildea.
Geo. S. Inglis.
Joseph W. Moore.
Nicholas J. Brabazon.
John T . Browne.
John B. Colborne.
Barry B . Dennehy.
Denis J. Field.
Saul W. Jacob.
Henry Kennedy, M. D.
Thomas Myles, M. D.
Francis J. Powell.
H. K. Robinson.
John H. Sandford.
Henry W. Sullivan.
About the 1st of June, 1883, I was directed to take charge of the prosecution of Joseph Poole, for the murder, on the night of 4th July, 1882, of John Kenny, who was suspected of giving information to the Police about the Invincibles. Poole was then at large, but was regarded as one of the most sanguinary of the conspirators. Poole was arrested immediately after the case being placed in my hands; but as one of the principal witnesses had to be traced out, and brought from America, he was not committed until the month of September. He was tried on the 20th of November, 1883, at the Dublin Commission, before Mr. Justice Murphy; the same counsel as in the last case, instructed by me, conducted the prosecution. The accused was defended by Dr. Webb, Q. C. , and M. C. M’Enerny, Esq., instructed by Mr. J. J. Walsh, solicitor. The witnesses examined against him were Bridget Brady, John Bride, Charles M. Browne, Thos. Cummins, Patrick Dugan, Edward Ennis, Eliza Fitzgerald, Fras. Geoghegan, Mary Anne Kelly, Patrick Kelly, William Lamie, Margaret Lawson, Lawrence M’Carthy, W. B. M’Farlane, Peter C. M’Garry, W. H. Milligan, John C. Phelan, Christina Reilly, Acting-Inspector Scully, Michael C. Walsh, and James E. Kelly, M. D.
He was convicted, and executed.
I have given the names of the witnesses examined against all who were tried for that conspiracy, and for the murders committed by the conspirators, in order that Mr. Parnell and his friends may, if they can, point to any one of those witnesses whose evidence they allege was obtained through their assistance, or to any other fact that would justify Mr. Parnell’s statement; but I am perfectly satisfied this is not a matter within their power.
Poole was the last of the Invincibles who was tried. Some others of them fled to America, where, up to the present, they have been allowed to remain undisturbed; but the conspiracy was broken up, and a complete stop put to its fiendish intentions. Having had no previous official connection with the city of Dublin, I think it desirable to go back to the year 1881, and give a short account of some occurrences then taking place, and of some important trials of which I had charge, the result of which led to the foregoing investigations being placed in my hands.
In 1881 I was, and had been for many years, Crown Solicitor for the County Tipperary, and had considerable experience in the conduct of criminal prosecutions. In this year the Land League was in full operation. The Royal Irish Constabulary was felt to be a great obstacle in its way, and one of its earliest attempts was to endeavour to sap the fidelity of that body, and render it discontented; for which purpose a number of letters were published and commented on in the public Press, alleging that the Roman Catholic members of the force were not awarded their fair share of promotion.
The Constabulary were then constantly occupied in the harassing duty of protecting bailiffs and process- servers, and preserving the peace at Land League meetings; and the attempt to render them discontented having failed, the next move was to try to intimidate them, first, by organised violence, and secondly, by prosecutions, before Coroners’ juries, in cases where they ventured to defend themselves, and the life of one of their assailants was lost.
On Sunday, the 9th October, 1881, a Land League meeting was held at Ballyragget in the County Kilkenny. A large number of Constabulary from the adjoining stations, and amongst them about thirty from the County Tipperary, under the command of Sub-Inspector Henry Jam es Bourchier, attended to preserve order. After the meeting the Tipperary constables left on their return home for the railway station, situate a short distance from the village, on the Castlecomer road. I hey were accompanied by Mr. John Mark O’Brien, then Sub-Inspector for the City of Kilkenny, who merely went to see his friend Mr. Bourchier off. From the village they were followed by a yelling and hooting crowd. The train by which they intended returning not having arrived, the constables were drawn up outside the station, and at some distance from the high road. At this time a large body which was returning from the meeting to Castlecomer, joined those who had followed the constables, and the opportunity for attacking them appeared too good to be lost; and accordingly, without the slightest provocation, the cry of “Carrickshock”* was raised, and volleys of stones poured upon them; over twenty were struck, some being seriously injured, and their only choice was to allow their lives to be sacrificed, or charge the mob, which they did under their officers’ command, with fixed swords, and in the encounter a man named James Mansfield was killed.
*On the 14 th of December, 1831, a party of constables, under the command of Mr. Gibbons, were protecting a process-server named Edmond Butler, serving law processes for tithes in the southern end of the County Kilkenny.
About eleven o’clock that morning the Chapel bells of Newmarket, Knocktopher, and Ballyheale were rung, and an immense crowd assembled and followed the party of constabulary, protesting they would not allow the processes to be served, and that Butler should be given up to them.
Mr. Gibbons, who on the trials that afterwards took place was admitted to have been a brave and humane officer, and very popular in the district, interposed between his party and the mob, remonstrating with the leaders, who professed great respect for him, and completely threw him off his guard.
At this time, the constables were marching along the high road, and approaching a place called u Carrickshock,” where the road became narrow, and the ground rose on either side; the mob pressing closely on the party, one of the constables, who understood them better than Mr. Gibbons, entreated him to take his men into the open fields, where their arms would afford them some protection, which he unfortunately did not do.
The moment the constables entered the narrow portion of the road, they were overwhelmed with stones from every direction, and, in an instant the process-server, eleven constables, and Mr. Gibbons, lay murdered on the road.
Mr. Gibbons was amongst the first struck down by those who but a moment before had been professing the utmost respect for him. I he other constables, many of them seriously injured, escaped as best they could to the houses of some respectable people in the neighbourhood.
An inquest was arranged to be held on Mansfield, and the usual cry of murderers got up against the constables. The inquest was opened on the 11th, and adjourned to the 15th, of October, 1881, on which day I, at the request of Mr. Bourchier and the constables, was directed to defend them.
Mr. Hartford, Sessional Crown Solicitor, watched the proceedings in his official capacity.
On arriving at Ballyragget, I found that the Coroner (Mr. James Fitzgerald) was the keeper of a public-house in a neighbouring village, in which he was president of the local branch of the Land League, and so illiterate he could scarcely write his name. The jury consisted of a couple of Ballyragget shopkeepers, and some small farmers, mechanics, and day labourers, residing in and about that village.
The prosecution was conducted by a very eminent counsel, sent down by the Land League (Mr. Richard Adams), who, on his arrival at the railway station, was met by the greater part of the jury and a large crowd, by which he was escorted to the court-house. This did not present a very promising aspect for the defence. Both coroner and jury appeared surprised that any difficulty should be raised to their at once finding a verdict of wilful murder against the entire party, and looked upon my interposition as most unreasonable; and, when I suggested that I would go into evidence to show that the constables only acted in necessary self-defence, several of the jurors exclaimed they would not listen to any such nonsense, that the constables killed the man, and that was all they wanted to know. However, I stood on my right, and had the advantage of having opposed to me a lawyer and a gentleman, who would not condescend to make any misstatements to the coroner, whom I was at last able to satisfy that I was entitled to take the course proposed; and I then proceeded to examine a number of the constables, and also some military officers, non-commissioned officers, and soldiers, who happened to be at the railway station at the time. Mr. Adams being obliged to return to town, the prosecution fell into the hands of others less experienced, who, as did some of the jurors, cross-examined the witnesses at enormous length, and the enquiry was protracted until the end of November, during which time several of the jurors, who had made up their minds not to pay the slightest attention to any evidence given for the constabulary, were in the habit of slipping away in batches from the jury-box to the neighbouring public-houses, during the examination of some of the most important witnesses, and returning when they had sufficiently refreshed themselves. In the end, they were all got together, and, on the 24th November, the jury, the coroner, and his son (who acted as his clerk), all retired together to the jury-room, when they found a verdict of wilful murder against Mr. Bourchier and Mr. O’Brien. Warrants were issued by the coroner against both those gentlemen, and delivered to the County Inspector; but such a mass of evidence had been got in, showing, in the most conclusive manner, that the forbearance of Mr. Bourchier and his men was, if anything, carried too far, and the conduct of the coroner and jury being so illegal, the County Inspector refused to act on the warrants, until the proceedings had been brought before the proper authorities.
In the meantime, Mr. Bourchier and Mr. O’Brien attended in the Court of Queen’s Bench, where their personal recognizance to attend and answer any charge that might be brought against them was accepted, and, in a few days afterwards, the whole proceedings were quashed by that Court.
On the 27th of October, 1881, a party of constables, under the command of Sub-Inspector Mathew Stritch, was protecting a man named Richard Barrett, serving summonses on the occupiers of the townland of Grahill, County Mayo, for recovery of poor’s-rate, when the people of the whole district, amounting to several thousands, assembled to resist the services. For some time the crowd contented itself with shouting and jeering at the constables; but, on the latter getting into a narrow road with high ground on one side, stones were poured upon them. Mr. Stritch remonstrated, but to no avail; the stone-throwing increased, and he ordered his men to fix swords and charge the crowd, which they did, but were met by volleys of stones; and, at length he was obliged to give orders to load. This did not stop the stone-throwing, and he directed some of his men to fire. Five or six shots were first fired, and then four or five more, when the crowd broke and fled; and it was found that a girl named Ellen M’Donagh, who had taken an active part in the stone-throwing, had been shot, and an old woman named Mary Deane, who was at some distance from the riot, was struck with a grain of shot in the neck, from which she died.
The most villainous falsehoods were published against the constabulary with reference to the unfortunate deaths of these women. It was stated that the constables attacked and massacred the people without the slightest provocation; and one paper published a cartoon representing a number of constables stabbing Ellen M’Donagh as she lay dead on the ground.
An inquest was held in November, 1881, at Belmullet, before Robert Mostyn, Esq., one of the coroners for Mayo, on the body of Ellen M’Donagh, and subsequently on that of Mary Deane. Those inquests were converted into State Trials. Counsel (Mr. M’Enerny) was sent down by the Land League to conduct the prosecution. Reporters were present from London, and some from the Continent. The Roman Catholic clergy of all the adjoining parishes attended. The little town of Belmullet was crowded with people from the adjoining districts; and a number of Land League ladies from Dublin and other places took up their position in the Courthouse opposite the jury, which consisted principally of small shopkeepers and farmers.
The enquiries were very protracted, but were conducted by the coroner with the utmost fairness and impartiality, and so far as he was concerned, in a manner which gave satisfaction to all parties.
I defended Mr. Stritch and the constables, and showed most conclusively that they acted simply in self-defence, and under the most unavoidable necessity; but popular feeling was too strong, and a majority of the jury (I think thirteen) found verdicts of wilful murder against Mr. Stritch and one of his mèn, who was identified as having fired. The coroner in this case declined to issue his warrant, until the matter was brought before the Court of Queen’s Bench, into which it was removed, and the whole proceedings fell to the ground.
On the third of May, 1882, it became known that Michael Davitt had been or was about to be released from prison. On that night a large crowd, headed by the local band, paraded the town of Ballina, Co. Mayo, breaking windows, and doing other injury.
On the following Friday, the 5th, news of Davitt’s actual liberation arrived, and- it was determined to celebrate the event by a great demonstration to be held in the town that night. When this became known, several of the respectable inhabitants, alarmed for the safety of themselves and their property, applied to Mr. Frederick James Ball, the Sub-Inspector of Constabulary (the resident magistrate being absent on duty in another part of the county), to take the necessary measures for their protection. In the course of the evening, Mr. Ball went to the office of the local band to inform them that they could not be allowed to play through the streets, as doing so would only collect a crowd, and probably lead to violence. At the office he saw one of the band (Bernard Broderick), a journeyman baker, who coolly proposed that Mr. Ball should confine the constabulary to barracks, and that he would be answerable for the peace of the town; and he offered to give a Mr. Quigley, who was contractor for repairing and cleansing the streets, as surety for the preservation of order.
Mr. Ball declined Broderick’s proposal, and informed him the band would not be allowed out—and it did not make its appearance. But at about nine o’clock a band from Ardnaree, a suburb of Ballina, followed by a crowd, estimated by Mr. Arthur Muffney, one of the local agitators, at about 3,000, assembled in the town, making a terrific noise; upon which Mr. Ball, with twelve constables, turned out, met the mob in Bridge-street, and attempted to stop the band, but were attacked with stones and other missiles, whereupon they charged and dispersed the crowd, and then retired to the market cross. No one was hurt in this charge; and the mob, taking courage from this circumstance, rallied in all the streets opening on the market cross, and poured volley after volley of stones on the constables, who, finding their position untenable, attempted to retreat down the main street, walking backwards so as to keep their pursuers at bay. At this time Mr. Ball exposed himself to considerable danger, by placing himself between his men and the mob, remonstrating with the latter, and threatening that if they did not desist he would have to fire. This had no effect; the more the constables retreated, the more furious the stone-throwing became; some of the constables were very badly injured, and Mr. Ball at last ordered two of the men to fire, which they did. Those shots had no effect, and two others were fired, which put an end to the attack. One of the shots struck a boy named Patrick Melody, who died in sixteen days afterwards. An inquest was held on 22nd May, 1882; Mr. Nichols, B. L., was sent down by the Land League to prosecute, and the usual amount of excitement got up. I defended Mr. Ball and his men. The first jury disagreed: a second was empanelled on the 1st June, who on 8th June found an open verdict, that deceased died from the effects of a gunshot wound—and so this case ended.
An inquest, held at Philipstown, in the King s Co., on the 15th of December, 1881, is peculiarly illustrative of the feeling which had, at that time, been got up against the constabulary, and the justice which any member of that force, suspected of doing his duty, might expect from what is called a popular tribunal.
The following are the facts of this case On the 3rd of November, 1881, Head-Constable John Macken, with three sub-constables, of whom Francis R. Boddy was one, proceeded from Philipstown to Edenderry to do duty at a fair, to be held next day at the latter place.
They slept in Edenderry, and went on town duty about five o’clock next morning. About seven o’clock Boddy got an internal pain, upon which, the headconstable sent him to his lodgings, where he was attended by Dr. Robert Saunderson, and a constable stationed in the town was told off to attend him.
On that evening, the two other sub-constables returned to Philipstown, leaving Boddy in his lodgings, the head-constable also remained in Edenderry on some public business.
On the morning of the 5th, Boddy, who was walking about, saw Dr. Saunderson, and told him he wanted to return to Philipstown. The doctor advised him not to do so, but told him, if he did, to go in a covered car. Boddy then went to the head-constable, told him what the doctor had said, and asked for an order for a covered car. The head-constable replied he had no power to give any order; that he should apply to Mr. Caulfield, the Sub-Inspector; upon which Boddy applied to Mr. Caulfield, who did not think him sufficiently well to travel, and directed him to remain in his lodgings. Boddy left, as Mr. Caulfield imagined, to carry out his directions; but, meeting a man going from Edenderry to Philipstown with a ^turf-cart, he, without any further communication with the headconstable, sub-inspector, or doctor, returned in the cart, got a bad cold, and died some days afterwards.
An inquest was held before William Arnott Gowing, Coroner, a man of very strong political bias. The head-constable was not popular with the coroner’s friends; and, it being considered desirable that he should be represented on the inquest, I attended on his behalf. The only evidence against the headconstable was a statement by the deceased that he had refused him an order for a covered car. I offered to give evidence of what had occurred, but the coroner refused to receive it; and he having joined and been shut up with the jury in their room for over an hour, they brought in a verdict that the head-constable neglected and refused to supply a covered car, as ordered by the doctor, and that the deceased man’s death was thereby hastened.
I urged, in vain, that the head-constable had no power to order a covered or any car, and that the deceased’ had returned, not only without the headconstable’s knowledge, but against the advice of the doctor, and the orders’ of his officer. The coroner said he knew his duty, and issued his warrant against the head-constable “ for wilful murder.” This proceeding was so grossly unjustifiable, the sub-inspector refused to act on the warrant.
The head-constable attended in the Court of Queen’s Bench, and entered into his own recognizance, and the whole proceedings were immediately afterwards set aside by that Court, by which the coroner was very severely censured.
In July, 1882, Mr. Timothy Harrington (now M.P.) and His brother, Mr. Edward Harrington (now also an M.P.), summoned some constables to a sessions at Listowel, for having assaulted them, and fired at the latter, when dispersing a meeting which the Harringtons and some others were endeavouring to hold, in defiance of the authorities.
Mr. Timothy Harrington conducted the prosecutions in person. I defended the constables.
The enquiry lasted several days, and ended in the charges being all dismissed.
This was the last of the cases in which I defended the constabulary. Those prosecutions cost the Land League a large sum of money, and in every one of them they were defeated.
At Ballyragget, Belmullet, and Ballina, great stress was laid by the League’s counsel upon the fact that no magistrate was present; and it was urged upon the coroners and juries that the constables could not legally act until the Riot Act was read: but I took the opportunity at all those places to state and impress on the constables and public that such was not the law—that men by becoming constables did not lose the right to defend themselves when assailed, and that, although as peace-officers they were bound to use the greatest forbearance, and on no account to resort to deadly weapons unless placed in imminent peril of their lives, or of great bodily injury, yet, if such a state of circumstances arose, they would be perfectly justified in using their arms, so far as was absolutely necessary for their own protection, and this whether a magistrate was or was not present, and, in extreme cases, even without the order of their officer.
This doctrine appeared to take the public by surprise; but, at all events, the result of those proceedings was viewed with great bitterness by the agitators, when they found that their only effect was to show the constabulary they would be supported when in the right, and to more fully explain to them the law of self-defence, and teach the public that stoning constables would not in future be as safe as it had previously been; and, as a consequence, the practice was, in a great measure, given up from that time. No doubt, the old attempt to sap the loyalty of the constabulary has been again recently resorted to, and in a very few cases with success; but it is gratifying to know that that splendid body has, in the main, been absolutely impregnable against such attempts.
On the night of the 24th April, 1881, a party of armed men attacked the dwelling-house of JohnLyden, of Bawnogue, near Letterfrack, Co. Galway, dragged himself and his son, Martin, a boy of about fourteen years of age, from their beds into the yard, where they shot the father dead, and mortally wounded the son; their only offence being that the elder Lyden was caretaking a farm in the neighbourhood, which had been given up by a former tenant to the landlord.
For these murders a man named Patrick Walsh, who was the leading agitator in Letterfrack, was arrested. The evidence against him rested principally on the declarations of young Lyden, who lived for a few hours, supported by some circumstantial evidence, consisting of facts, apparently trivial in themselves, but which, when put together, established the guilt of the accused beyond all doubt. The case was sent, under the Crimes Act, to the Commission held in Dublin, in August, 1882.
When arrangements were being made for the trial by the law officers, they found the evidence in a very unsatisfactory condition; some of the connecting facts having been either overlooked, or rejected at the preliminary investigation. In this state, I received orders about a fortnight before the Commission to take up the case, and try to get it into shape for trial; and Mr. Horne, then a Sub-Inspector, who had charge of the earlier stages of the investigation, but whose views had, in many particulars, been overruled by the local authorities, was directed to assist me. This was my first acquaintance with Mr. Horne. We went to work, and by very close application, often extending far into the night, we got the evidence into such a shape that the Crown was enabled to put Walsh on his trial in August, 1882, when he was tried at the Dublin Com^ mission, before Mr. Justice Lawson.
The Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, Jas. Murphy, Esq., Q.C. (now Mr. Justice Murphy), and Peter O’Brien, Esq. (now Her Majesty’s third Serjeant), instructed by me, prosecuted.
Charles O’Malley, Esq., and Mathias McDonnell Bodkin, Esq., instructed by Mr. R. J. Connolly, Solicitor, defended.
Walsh was convicted, and executed.
In April, 1881, Constable James Kavanagh, who was known to be a very efficient officer, was sent to Letterfrack to prosecute enquiries about the murder of the Lydens, which he was doing very actively; but, on the night of the 15th of February, 1882, he was shot dead when crossing the street from the house of one Mrs. Noon to his barrack.
Michael Walsh (the brother of Patrick Walsh) was charged with this murder. No one could be found who saw it committed; consequently, the evidence could only be of a circumstantial character. This case was placed in my charge, assisted by Mr. Horne, and was also removed to Dublin, where it was tried on the 27th, 28th, and 29th September, 1882, before Mr. Justice Lawson. The same counsel and solicitors as in the case against Patrick Walsh appeared for the prosecution and defence. The accused was convicted and sentenced to be executed; but, in consideration of his youth, and the supposition that he acted under the influence of his brother, his sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life.*
*For his services in these and other previous cases, Mr. Horne was most deservedly appointed a Resident Magistrate.
On the morning of the 18th of August, 1882, the public was horrified by the news of the frightful massacre at Maamtrasna, County Galway, of John Joyce, his mother, wife, son and daughter, and the attempt to murder his son Patrick, a child only nine years old. I was sent down the following day to investigate those murders; and when I arrived at Cong, a village about fifteen miles from Maamtrasna, but the nearest place at which I could stop, I found before me J. C. Gardiner, R. M., Newton A. Brady, R. M., James F. Gibbons, Sub-Inspector, and several other Sub-Inspectors, with a large number of men of the Royal Irish Constabulary; and we were shortly afterwards joined by Mr. Clifford Lloyd, Divisional Magistrate, Major (now Col.) Turner, then one of the Equeries to the Lord Lieutenant, Sir Harry Goodricke, R. M., and others; and, in some days afterwards, His Excellency Earl Spencer visited the scene.
All the officials and constables were most anxious to procure what information they could; but on Mr. Clifford Lloyd’s arrival, he directed that I should take sole charge of the enquiry, and that no one should act, except under my directions. There was no difficulty in obtaining direct evidence against the murderers, as Anthony and John Joyce at once came forward, and identified ten men (of whom Thos. Casey of Glensaul was one) as the murderers; and nine of them were also identified by Pat Joyce, son of John, who described the number as ten, but did not know, and was not able to identify, Thomas Casey. I and those acting with me applied ourselves to ascertain the motive for the crime, and to trace the movements of the accused on the night of its committal. We found it impossible to get any direct evidence as to motive; but enough transpired to satisfy us that an extensive secret Society existed in the district; and it was stated that John Joyce was treasurer to the local branch, and was accused of having applied some £11 of the funds to his own use, and that, when pressed for the money, he threatened to give information to the police, coupled with which the following appeared to us to be the cause of that terrible crime. On the 3rd of January, 1882, a bailiff of Lord Ardilaun’s named Joseph Huddy, and John Huddy, his grandson, when serving ejectments for non-payment of rent, were murdered at Clonbrack in the County Galway, their bodies put into sacks, and sunk in a deep part of Lough Mask, where they remained undiscovered until the 27th of that month. Immediately after their discovery, a paragraph appeared in a Dublin paper to the effect that the authorities had been assisted in their search by information received from an old woman residing on the mountain overlooking Lough Mask, who, when gathering firewood, saw the bodies thrown into the lake. The description of this woman corresponded with that of old Mrs. Joyce, who, just before the bodies were found, had been living with one of her sons at a place commanding a full view of the lake. This place she had left for her son John’s shortly before the 17th August, 1882, and it would appear that his threat of giving information, coupled with the supposition that his mother had done so before coming to his house, was the immediate cause of the murders of the old woman and her son; and that the others were murdered to prevent their identifying the murderers.
Procuring evidence as to the movements of the accused on that night was an exceedingly difficult task, for although the people of the district at first expressed the utmost horror at the crime, and willingness to bring the perpetrators to justice, yet the moment they found so many of their neighbours, friends, and relatives in custody, they became exceedingly reticent, and avoided the officials and constables; several affected not to understand English; and in the case of Myles Joyce, the only persons we could at any time find in his house were some grownup boys and girls, who would not answer any question in either English or Irish, having been evidently directed not to hold any conversation with us.
However, we resolved to leave nothing on our part undone to get at the whole truth, and place the guilt or innocence of the accused beyond all doubt, and, for that purpose, to examine every person in the district capable of giving evidence. This was a work of immense labour. As I before mentioned, we were obliged to stop at Cong, and to get from that to Maamtrasna we had to drive about six miles; then to cross Lough Mask in an oblique direction for a distance of about seven miles (first by a row-boat, but afterwards by a steam launch placed at our disposal from the Valorous), and then to walk some miles through the mountains. Our first proceeding was to take the evidence of the adult members of the families of each of the accused (omitting wives, who were not competent witnesses) as to their movements, such as, where and how each had been engaged on the preceding day; when he arrived home; how he spent the night; was there any and what stranger in the house, &c., &c.? We interrogated each separately from the others, and took care that we concluded the enquiry at each house before one member had an opportunity of ascertaining the evidence given by. the others; and when they mentioned that neighbours or others could give information, we had them examined before they could be communicated with. The necessity for extreme promptness was peculiarly exemplified in the case of Patrick Joyce of Shanvallycahill, whose wife protested strongly against his being detained in custody, stating she had a number of witnesses to prove his innocence; that she was ill the night of the murders, and that her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, John Coyne, who had recently returned from America, and her uncle, Anthony Lynch, of Kilbride, some four miles off, had sat up all night with her; and would all prove her husband did not leave his house that night.
We at once proceeded to the house of her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and when approaching it, found Mrs. Joyce trying to get before us; but we had her kept back by the constables until we examined her mother-in-law and sister-in-law, and found the former had not heard of Mrs. Joyce’s illness, had not sat up with her, and had not been in her house that night, nor had her daughter. The daughter, who was a little better prepared, but not perfectly made up, swore she was at Patrick Joyce’s that night, but that there was no one else there but himself and his wife.
We then proceeded to the house of John Coyne, the returned American, examined him, and found he had never been in Patrick Joyce’s house.
We then made our way to Anthony Lynch’s of Kilbride, and found him suffering from a bad attack of inflammation of his lungs, and that he had not been out of his house for five weeks before. This settled the intended alibi. Patrick Joyce was afterwards convicted, confessed his guilt, and was executed.
In another house, we were assured one of the accused (Patrick Joyce [John]), who was a servant in the employment of a farmer named James Gavin, of Gowlaun, in the County Mayo, several miles off, was at his master’s house, in company with three other farmers, that night. This, if true, would have been a perfect defence. Mr. Brady and I at once started for James Gavin’s house, examined him, and found the statement of the accused being in his employment true; but he had left his house the morning before, and returned the day after the murders. We also examined the other farmers referred to, and their evidence corroborated the master’s; and the accused afterwards pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to penal servitude for life. But, in fact, there was scarcely a house we went to that attempts were not made to mislead us. To get at the truth, and to completely put a stop to the possibility of false alibis, we had to examine and take informations or statements from 643 witnesses. This was the first time such a course was adopted; but it was absolutely necessary, owing to the nature of the crime, the number of persons charged, and the strong temptation to their relatives and friends to swear them free; to do this we generally had to work from g a.m. to 11 p.m. for over three weeks. The prosecution was also removed to Dublin, where the trials took place in November, 1882, before Lord Justice Barry. T he Attorney-General, the Solicitor-General, Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Peter O’Brien, instructed by me, prosecuted. Geo. Orme Malley, Q.C., and John A. Stritch, Esq., instructed by Mr. Henry Concannon, Solicitor, defended. Those trials showed in the clearest manner the importance of our preliminary examinations; for the prisoners’ solicitor served notice of the names of twenty witnesses, two to prove alibis for each of the accused, and required funds to bring them to town, which were advanced by the Government, and the witnesses were actually in Court during the trials. Amongst them were Peter Lyden and Mary Conboy, to prove that they slept in Myles Joyce’s house, and that he was not absent from it on that night; but his counsel did not venture to call them, because they were amongst those whose evidence had been previously taken; and it was known they could not stand the test of cross-examination.
Of the ten persons named, two became approvers, Thomas Casey, of Glensaul,* and Anthony Philbin; three were tried, convicted, and executed— namely, Patrick Joyce, of Shanvallycahill; Patrick Casey, of Derry, and Myles Joyce; and five pleaded guilty, and were sentenced to penal servitude for life, viz.: — Patrick Joyce (John), Michael Casey, John Casey, Martin Joyce, and Thomas Joyce.
*On Casey becoming an approver, his statement was taken by Mr. Brady, R. M.
Of the three executed, the two first-named admitted their guilt; but Myles Joyce protested his innocence, and a good deal of popular indignation was got up on the subject of his execution: but it is to be remembered that Anthony Joyce, John Joyce, and Patrick Joyce, the three principal witnesses for the prosecution, had no animus against him, more than against any of the others—that he was their cousin and neighbour, and perfectly well known to them; and it is difficult to suppose they could have been right in their dentification of the other nine, and wrong as to him. And, again, it is to be borne in mind that, although he was defended by two such eminent counsel and a solicitor of great ability and experience, selected by himself, but paid by the Government, by which all funds required to procure the attendance of witnesses were supplied, no attempt was made to account for his movements on that night. It is therefore believed his protestation of innocence was founded on the theory that he fired no shot, or struck no blow, and therefore did not consider himself guilty of the murders; but that he was one of the party by which they were committed no one connected with the prosecution ever doubted.
On the conclusion of those trials, I received from His Excellency Earl Spencer the autograph letter of which a copy is given in the Appendix.
In September, 1882, the investigation of this case was placed in my hands. As I mentioned in the preceding case, Joseph and John Huddy, when serving ejectments, at suit of Lord Ardilaun, for non-payment of rent, were murdered on the 3rd of January, 1882, at Clonbrack, in the County Galway, their bodies put into sacks and sunk in Lough Mask, where they were discovered on the 27th of that month; but no evidence was then forthcoming against anyone. In this investigation I was assisted by Mr. Lyster, R. M.; Mr. Gardiner, R. M.; Mr. Brady, R. M.; and Mr. Gibbons, S.I.; to the exertions of the latter is in a great measure to be attributed the discovery of the murderers.
After we had been working at the case for some time, Mathias Kerrigan, close to whose house the murders took place, and who saw them committed, began to fear the evidence we had procured might possibly place himself in a dangerous position; and, after having kept the secret for over eight months, he gave me a full statement of the occurrence. This enabled us to procure the evidence of other witnesses, who, when they found we were in possession of the facts, were afraid not to tell what they knew.
In this case we pursued the same course as at Maamtrasna, examining everyone in the district, and it was quite necessary to do so.
There were four men charged, viz.:—Patrick Higgins (Long), Thos. Higgins, Michael Flynn, and Patrick Higgins (Sarah). One of those (Michael Flynn) started immediately after the murders to join the funeral of one Joseph Joyce, of Cremlin. Had he been at the house of the deceased when the funeral was leaving, he could not have been at the murders; but he had no difficulty in joining it at Coronamona, being a point between the house and Clonbur, the place of burial, which was what he did.
Anticipating what afterwards happened, we examined everyone from the district who was at the funeral, and they all agreed that the first place at which they saw Flynn was at Coronamona; but when the trials came on, at the Dublin Commission, in December, 1882, twenty-six witnesses were brought up for the prisoners, at the public expense, the greater number being to prove they saw Flynn at the house of the deceased. Two of them were examined, but so varied from their former evidence, they could not be relied upon, and prisoner’s counsel saw there was no use in calling the others. Flynn was convicted and executed, having admitted his guilt. The daughter of Patrick Higgins (Long) had, when examined by us, sworn she was some miles away from the scene of those murders the day they occurred, and another girl swore she was all that day at school, and did not see any of the accused; but at the trial those two girls were produced to prove that at the time of the murders they were carrying sheaves of corn from the field into the barn of Patrick Higgins (Long), who was threshing it,—that they heard the noise of the murders and went up the by-road, and saw the bodies, but that Patrick Higgins (Long) never left his barn. On being confronted with their former evidence, they at first denied, but afterwards admitted, they had been sworn, the girl Higgins stating she did not think she was bound by her oath to tell us the truth, as she was not sworn in a courthouse, and that she saw no cross on the book she was sworn on.
Higgins was also convicted and executed, as was Thomas Higgins. The fourth man, Patrick Higgins (Sarah), was accepted as an approver, the Crown believing that he was, to some extent, compelled to take the part he did in the murders.
The trials were held in Dublin in November, 1882, before Mr. Justice O’Brien. The same counsel as in the preceding case, instructed by me, prosecuted for the Crown.
Charles H. Teeling, Esq., and Richard Adams, Esq., instructed by Mr. Patrick J. B. Daly, Solicitor, defended.
In this case we examined 211 witnesses at the preliminary investigation.
In December, 1882, I was directed to take up the investigation into the murder of Thomas Gibbons, a caretaker for Lord Ardilaun, which occurred on the 17th of March preceding, not far from the village of Clonbur, but in the County Mayo. In this investigation I was assisted by Nicholas Gosselin, R. M., and Sub-Inspector Gibbons. As in the other cases, we had great difficulty in procuring any evidence; but, by patient and diligent application, we traced out the criminals. The crime was committed by three men, one of whom had fled the country; the other two we had arrested.
In this case also we examined a great number of persons who saw the crime committed, but would give us no assistance. They generally pretended they were so far off, or so frightened, they could give no description of the murderers,—for it was a pure murder. The trial was held at Sligo, in August, 1883, before Mr. Justice Murphy, when several of those persons came forward as witnesses for the defence, swore they saw the men by whom it was committed, and were near enough to know them, and that they were not the accused, but theii previous informations prevented any weight being attached to their evidence. The jury, however, took a merciful view of the case, and convicted the accused of manslaughter.
The prosecution was conducted by the then Attorney-General (now Ex-Chancellor Naish), the late Mr. Sergeant Robinson, Francis Nolan, Q. C., and Frederick N. L e Poer Trench, Esq., instructed by me. The accused were defended by Mathias M. Bodkin and Chas. Taylor, Esqrs., instructed by Mr. P. J. B. Daly, Solicitor.
About this time (1882), the investigation of some other cases of considerable importance was placed in my hands, and I was also directed to conduct several prosecutions for intimidation, and, in May and June, 1882, to show cause in the Court of Queen’s Bench against applications by several persons seeking to be discharged from custody, under commitments by magistrates in. several counties, for crimes of that description; in all of which, with one solitary exception, the decisions o f the magistrates were upheld.
Wm. Ryan, Esq., Q. C., was counsel for the Crown in all those cases; and to him should be given the credit of their successful termination, which led to the investigation of the Invincible Conspiracy—the murders in the Phoenix Park, the murder of John Kenny, and the attempt to murder Mr. Field (which all proceeded from the same conspiracy), being placed in my hands.
I shall now make a few observations on what I conceive to be the duty of those conducting preliminary investigations. All important preliminary enquiries should be conducted by an official perfectly conversant with the law of evidence; and as the greatest crimes have often been discovered after considerable time, by matters apparently trivial in themselves, but which led up to others by which the facts were brought to light, nothing should be rejected without the most careful examination. But this involves an amount of labour and patience of which the public have very little idea; and it not unfrequently happens that the official conducting such an examination either has not sufficient time at his disposal to bestow on those enquiries, or is apprehensive his superiors would think he was protracting the enquiry to an unreasonable length; but no one having charge of any serious case should allow such a feeling to have the slightest effect upon him.
Had I allowed any question about the time occupied to have had any influence with me, many of the criminals I prosecuted would never have been brought to justice.
With the exception of the Maamtrasna case, the crimes in all the others I have mentioned had been committed and the perpetrators had remained undiscovered for considerable periods, and probably thought they were about to escape with impunity. No doubt, the evidence against them existed from the beginning; but it was scattered about in a fragmentary and disjointed state, and there was the utmost difficulty in collecting it from often unwilling witnesses, sifting, arranging, and putting it into shape.
I have always considered hasty arrests, without evidence, or a reasonable prospect of its being forthcoming, most objectionable; in such cases, the party arrested is almost certain to be immediately discharged, and his position, thereupon, becomes more assured: witnesses are more reluctant to give evidence against, and make an enemy of, a person who, having been once released, is likely to be again at liberty. Again, too, the accused, while in custody, has a shield of protection cast round him by the law, which he would not possess if at large, and, for those reasons, it is, in my opinion, far better to place suspected persons under close surveillance than to arrest them.
I now come to a part of the duty of those conducting preliminary investigations which is almost always neglected, but to which I attach great importance—I mean, tracing the movements of the accused, and examining those whom there could be any reason to suppose might afterwards come forward to give false evidence for the defence.
Parties having charge of such investigations are generally satisfied if they procure direct evidence against the accused, and never think of taking the informations of those about the place, when they would only go to shew the witness knew nothing of the occurrence or of the movements of the accused; but if they took the trouble of getting such evidence in proper time, they would not afterwards find so many persons coming forward on the trial and swearing to false alibis and other untrue defences. If this course had not been adopted in the Maamtrasna, Lough Mask, Clonbur, and other cases, and if the relatives, friends, and neighbours of the accused had been left free to concoct alibis and arrange false defences at their leisure, the results might, and probably would, have been very different. The investigation before Mr. Curran into the Invincible Conspiracy and murders in the Phcenix Park answered the same purpose.
The value of the course suggested is unintentionally admitted by Mr. Daly, in his letter given in the Appendix, in which, speaking of the preliminary examination in the case of the Huddy murders at Lough Mask, he says: “It certainly embarrassed my clients in their defence;” the meaning of which is perfectly plain to everyone conversant with criminal trials in Ireland.
As a rule, it is very desirable to have a general conversation with all witnesses before they are examined, and to take, without unnecessary delay, the informations of those who, there is reason to believe, are telling the truth; but it is a great mistake to be too ready to force hostile or reluctant witnesses to be sworn, more especially if they have previously made statements denying all knowledge of the subject on which they are about to be examined. It is a constant practice for over-zealous constables, who are aware there are facts within the knowledge of a person which he is not willing to disclose, to say to an inexperienced magistrate, “O, swear him, and he must then tell the truth!” My experience of witnesses is that, under such circumstances, they will stick to their first statement, however false; and if they should afterwards become disposed to tell the truth, their having been previously sworn will leave their evidence of very little value. This is, however, a matter peculiarly for the magistrate’s discretion, which should be exercised with great care; in fact, I know of no part of his duty in which his capacity and judgment will be more tried. In these observations I do not refer to witnesses examined, merely to give what may be regarded as negative evidence, for the purpose of preventing them coming forward afterwards, and giving false evidence on the trial. The intermeddling, in any important case by magistrates not fully conversant with all its details, without consulting those having it in charge, is highly objectionable, and well calculated to lead to embarrassment, if not to do positive mischief. Overloading informations or depositions with a number of minute details should be avoided. The motive which is supposed to have led to the crime should in all cases be most carefully enquired into.
A good deal has been lately said about the impropriety of Crown officials examining what are called the prisoner s witnesses: I know of no privilege which should exempt such persons from examination. I always believed that, when a crime was committed, i t was the duty of those charged with its investigation to examine everyone who could give any information about it. The evidence of the witnesses for the prosecution is public property; and I see no reason why a witness should be allowed to evade being examined, by saying, I may be called for the accused. If such a thing was to be tolerated, any reluctant witness might refuse to give evidence on that plea. Should an innocent man be accused, such an examination would be greatly to his advantage, as immediate and reliable evidence would be thereby obtained, which might enable him to be at once discharged, or, if sent for trial, would be preserved, and the full benefit of it given to him afterwards, both on any question that might arise as to bail and on his trial, it being as much the duty of all officials to protect the innocent as to convict the guilty.
At all events, in all the serious cases of which I have had charge, I pursued the practice of examining every witness who could know anything of the subject. This may not be approved of by those who, from sympathy or interest, wish to pose as friends of the accused, but has never been objected to by prisoner’s counsel or solicitor; on the contrary, every practising counsel and solicitor on the Leinster Circuit and the prisoners’ solicitors, in all the principal cases I have mentioned, have expressed their perfect satisfaction with the way in which I have discharged my duties, and have given me testimonials to that effect, copies of which I annex.
LETTER OF THE LORD LIEUTENANT.
Vice-regal Lodge, Dublin,
4th December, 1882.
Dear Mr. Bolton,
Although your office is directly under the Attorney-General, I am sure that he will make no objection to my personally writing to you, to express my sincere thanks for the great services which you have rendered to the Government and the country in the Maamtrasna murder case. The ability which you brought to bear on the evidence, and the zeal which you threw into your work, contributed in the most marked way to the successful issue of one of the most important criminal trials which has lately been before an Irish Court of Justice. If I am taking an unusual course in writing to you, it is because I feel that an unusual success has been attained, and I feel strongly the part you have taken in the transaction.
G. Bolton, Esq.,
TESTIMONIAL OF THE LEINSTER BAR.
We, the undersigned members of the Leinster Circuit, have, for many years, had an opportunity of observing the way in which the Crown prosecutions have been conducted by Mr. George Bolton, Crown Solicitor for the County Tipperary; many of us having been engaged as Counsel for the accused in the various important trials that have taken place in that county; and we have pleasure in stating that, while Mr. Bolton discharged the duties of his office with great efficiency, he always did so with the utmost fairness to the accused, and courtesy to their legal advisers, to whom he invariably afforded the utmost facility for their client’s defence.
C. H. Hemphill, Q. C., Second Serjeant-at-law.
William Ryan, Q.C.
J. G. Gibson, Q. C.
Piers F. White, Q. C.
Theobald A. Purcell, Q. C.
Stephen P. Curtis, Q. C.
David Lynch, Q. C.
Wm. Anderson, Q. C.
Michael T. Crean.
J. B. Falconer.
Frederick Pollock Hamilton.
Arthur W. Samuels.
W. A. Sargent.
Charles L. Matheson.
Albert W. Quill.
D. P. Barton.
Henry Wm. Lover.
Alex. F. Blood.
Hans H. Aylmer.
J. M. Colles.
John R. Orpen.
Richd. R. Cherry.
F. T. Bagwell.
Geo. Dames Burtchaell
J. P. Brett.
John H. Nunn, jun.
We, the undersigned, who were formerly members of the Home Circuit, a portion of which has been added to the Leinster Circuit, have seen and heard enough of the mode in which the criminal business has been conducted by Mr. George Bolton, Crown Solicitor, to enable us to say that we fully concur with our brethren in what they have stated in the foregoing testimonial.
Constantine Molloy, Q. C.
Edmund Meares Kelly.
John H. Edge.
T. S. Frank Battersby.
TESTIMONIAL OF THE TIPPERARY SOLICITORS.
We, the undersigned Solicitors practising in the County of Tipperary, take leave to state that, both from our general knowledge, and the fact that there has been no important criminal trial in the county for several years in which some of us has not acted as Solicitor for the accused, we have had the fullest opportunity of observing and satisfying ourselves as to the manner in which the duties of Crown Solicitor for that county have been performed by Mr. Bolton.
These duties Mr. Bolton has always discharged with great efficiency, but with the utmost fairness to the accused, for whose defence he has invariably afforded every facility, and against whom he never presses anything unduly, but, on the contrary, has always dealt as leniently with them as was consistent with his duty; and, as far as we have been able to ascertain, this is the opinion of the public generally.
Michael Gleeson, Solicitor, Nenagh.
William J. Menton, Solicitor, Roscrea.
Peter V. Kennedy, Solicitor, Nenagh.
Anthony Nolan, Solicitor, Nenagh.
James Murphy, Solicitor, Thurles.
Frank Sheppard, St. Cronan’s, Roscrea.
William Bridge, Solicitor, Roscrea.
Arnold Le Poer Power, Solicitor, Thurles.
John P. M’Craith, Solicitor, Roscrea.
Thos. B. Pennefather, Solicitor, Thurles.
Edmond F. Guerin, Solicitor, Nenagh.
J. Meade O’Sullivan, Solicitor, Carrick-on-Suir.
John O’Dwyer, Solicitor, Tipperary.
Wm. Ryan, Solicitor, Cahir and Clonmel.
David J. Higgins, Solicitor, Clonmel.
David J. Clancy, Solicitor, Clonmel.
Joseph F. Quirk, Solicitor, Carrick-on-Suir.
William Ryan, Solicitor, Tipperary.
Pierce Grace, Solicitor, Cashel.
Edmond S. Rice, Solicitor, Tipperary.
Hugh T. Sayers, Solicitor, Cashel.
Walter Nolan, Solicitor, Cahir.
Dermot O’Donohoe, Solicitor, Clonmel.
Jas. D’Altera Dowsley, Solicitor, Clonmel.
A. St. George, Solicitor, Clonmel.
Francis P. Tydd, Solicitor, Clonmel.
Francis E. Tydd, L. L. B., Solicitor, Clonmel.
Patrick J. Kenny, Solicitor, Carrick-on-Suir.
John H. Hogan, Solicitor, Tipperary.
Thomas Davin, Solicitor, Carrick-on-Suir.
Edward Burke, Solicitor, Clonmel.
Allen H. Morgan, Solicitor, Thurles.
Stephen W. Coppinger, Solicitor, Thurles.
LETTER OF GERALD BYRNE, ESQ., SOLICITOR.
29 Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin
Geo. Bolton, Esq.
In answer to your request that I should state my opinion of the manner you conducted the prosecutions in which I was Solicitor for prisoners, I can only state, in fairness to you, that you gave me every facility for making myself fully acquainted with the facts of these serious cases, and your conduct, to my mind, was marked by great fairness.
I am, Dear Sir,
Yours very truly,
LETTER OF WILLIAM M’CUNE, ESQ., SOLICITOR.
11 Chancery Place, Dublin,
8th December, 1884.
Dear Mr. Bolton,
In the several cases in which I was concerned as Solicitor on behalf of Joseph Brady and others charged with the Phoenix Park murders, I can certify that, while you conducted the prosecutions with efficiency, you did so, so far as I am aware, with great fairness and straightforwardness, and afforded me every facility to enable me to conduct the defence of my clients.
I am, yours truly,
G. Bolton, Esq.
6 Ely Place.
LETTER OF JAMES J. WALSH, ESQ., SOLICITOR.
24 Pill Lane,
3rd August, 1886.
In reply to your application that I would state my opinion of the way in which you conducted the criminal prosecutions of which you, as Crown Solicitor, had charge at the Dublin Commissions, I beg to say that I was engaged as Solicitor in many of those cases, defending Invincibles and others who were charged with political offences; and whilst, in principle, I condemn the system under which those prosecutions were conducted, and shall always regard it as infamous and insulting to Her Majesty, in whose name it is carried on, I must say that, personally, I always found you most courteous, obliging, and straightforward, giving me every facility in your power for the defence of my clients in all the cases in which I was concerned.
I am, dear Sir,
J. J. WALSH.
TO GEORGE BOLTON, ESQ.
LETTER OF HENRY CONCANNON, ESQ., SOLICITOR.
Tuam, 17th August, 1885.
In reply to your letter asking my opinion as to your conduct in the above case, I beg to say you gave me every facility, and placed at my disposal all maps, papers, &c., which I sought for. Your conduct was just what I should expect from one solicitor to another candid and straightforward.
GEORGE BOLTON, ESQ.
LETTER OF P. J. B. DALY, ESQ., SOLICITOR.
Offices— Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo,
and 33 North Frederick St., Dublin,
December 6th, 1884.
In reply to your note asking me to state in what cases prosecuted by you I defended, and my opinion as to how you conducted these prosecutions, I feel it due from one professional man to another, that I should do so with perfect candour. The cases in which I defended were those of Patrick Higgins and others, charged with the murder of the Iluddys, near Lough Mask, and William Diskin and others, charged with the murder of Thomas Gibbons, near Clonbur. On visiting these localities, when preparing for trial, I found you had examined not only the Crown witnesses, but all the people for several miles round, and taken their informations and statements. This must have imposed upon you a vast amount of labour, and it certainly embarrassed my clients in their defence; but it appears you had a right to take that course, and, consequently, it is not open to me to say more than that it was unusual. In all other particulars, I must say, I never met an official who discharged his duty with greater fairness to the prisoners or courtesy to myself.
Yours very truly,
P. J. B. DALY.
GEORGE BOLTON, ESQ.
Source: Oireachtas Library