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crown, to prove the dying declarations of a man who had been murdered; and Magee was to forfeit his life because he dared to inhabit the house and farm from which Dr. Carter had been expelled*.”
An attempt to kill an informer among the Irish at Wigan, although his offence had no Whiteboy complexion, is mentioned by Mr. Lord, a magistrate of the borough, in his evidence taken for the Irish Poor Commission.
“ A young Irishman, about October last, gave information to the magistrates that two Irishmen who had recently come here, and followed the trade of selling oysters, had committed a rape and robbery in Ireland, and had fled from justice. They were apprehended and detained more than a week, but, in consequence of a delay in receiving an answer from Ireland, they were liberated; the day they were liberated the warrant came from Ireland for their apprehension. Several attempts were made by the Irish to murder the
gave this information and his brother; the attempts were made openly by several persons, and he was once struck on the head so severely that he was nearly killed. I believe they have both since left the townt."
They will even go so far as to destroy one of their colleagues, when he has been wounded and is likely to fall into the hands of the police, and thus be induced to give information.
“ In one particular instance, about two years since, or rather more, there was a plan laid in the city of Limerick to take away the arms of a yeomanry corps, in the neighbourhood of Six-mile-bridge ; the Rosscastle
* Maryborough Special Commission, p. 50.
† Appendix to the Report on the Irish Poor in Great Britain, p. 87-8. That the Thrashers murdered informers is stated in a passage cited above, p. 41.
“ What do you mean by taking their arms ?—Carrying off their arms, which were lodged in the store of the captain ; about 60 men came out from the city of Limerick that night, who were joined afterwards by people in the neighbourhood of Crattoe, and then all proceeded to rob those arms.
6. And what date was that?-I think it was two years ago, before the Insurrection Act was applied to that barony.
« In point of fact, did they possess themselves of all the arms of that yeomanry corps ?-No; from having that information, as I had in the other instance, I was out at night, and met them.
“ Describe what passed ?-I had placed an advanced guard in the neighbourhood, and I gave them directions to fall back on me when they found the men coming; but they were equal tacticians, and they had an advanced guard, and the two advanced guards had a rencontre ; the consequence was, I was not able to come up with the main body, and from the firing which took place the party dispersed, in a very dark night; one individual was shot, and one so badly wounded they were obliged to carry him for two or three days in succession, from place to place, and he was so tortured by this, that he sent to me to give himself up. I sent a surgeon to have him taken care of; the house was burnt the night after, and in dragging him out the man was killed.
Do you mean that they burnt the house intending to consume him in it?—The matter was involved in mystery; the very night after I sent a surgeon to him, and it was known that he had sent a proposition to me to give himself up, the house was burnt, the person in attendance upon him dragged him out of the fire, and the man died in the dragging him out.”— H. C., 1824, pp. 138-9.
In the above case, although Major Warburton abstains from assenting to the obvious explanation suggested by the Committee, it seems clear that the house was set on fire in order to kill the wounded man in it, who was unable to move.
So great indeed is the danger to which witnesses for the crown are exposed in Ireland, and so great the probability of their being murdered, if not put in a place of safety, that it has been found necessary to provide, by a special enactment, that the depositions of murdered
persons may be read in evidence * As giving evidence in Whiteboy cases is equivalent to a sentence of death, there is no means of inducing persons to come forward as witnesses, except by offering them protection, and reimbursing them for the sacrifice which they make. It is therefore the established practice, in cases of this kind, for the witnesses, when their depositions have been taken, to be sent up to Dublin, or lodged in a gaol, or in some place of security, until the trial take place; and then for the government to furnish them with the means of removing elsewhere, that is, in general, of emigrating to America t. At the best, therefore, giving evidence against a Whiteboy entails the banishment of the witness; a sacrifice which many people would be very
* The 50 Geo. III. c. 102 s. 55, having recited that “whereas it has happened that persons who have given information against persons accused of crimes in Ireland have been murdered before the trial of persons accused, in order to prevent their giving evidence, and to effect the acquittal of the accused,” proceeds to enact, that "if any person who shall give information on oath against any person for any offence against the laws shall, before the trial of such person, be murdered, or violently put to death, or so maimed or forcibly carried away and secreted as not to be able to give evidence on the trial of such person,
the information so taken on oath shall be admitted in all courts of justice in Ireland as evidence on the trial of such person.” This provision was extended to grand juries by 56 Geo. III. c. 87, s. 3. The former act likewise contains a clause enabling grand juries in Ireland to present such a sum as they shall think just and reasonable to be paid to the personal representative of any witness who shall be murdered before trial, or to himself if maimed.
of They commonly receive sums varying from 201. to 501.
unwilling to make, even if they were slight gainers in a pecuniary point of view. The government finds that it must choose between two alternatives ; either to obtain no convictions in Whiteboy cases, or to provide for the witnesses: and however expensive the latter course may be, it is at least preferable to allowing the law to be tacitly repealed by the insurgents. The manner in which this assistance is afforded by the government will appear from the subjoined statements.
W. W. Despard, Esq.:
“Do you conceive that the prosecutors who have come forward and done their duty, have been adequately protected in the Queen's County ?-I believe that those that came forward at the last commission were; they have not been remunerated yet, but they have got protection; they cannot go back again; they would be murdered ; there are some in Maryborough and some in Dublin ; I believe the government will take care of them.
6. Their condition will not be worse after prosecuting them than before?-I cannot speak to that; it will depend upon the intentions of government.
“ Have any of them been supplied with the means of emigrating ?-I believe they have not since the last commission; I do not know what the government intend doing with them; I believe they will be furnished with the means of emigrating
Do you conceive if witnesses were adequately provided for, so that when they came forward and did their duty they did not render their condition worse than before, that it would have the effect of putting down the disturbance by the ordinary laws?
It might encourage witnesses to come forward to prosecute.' H.C., 1832, Nos. 739-42.
Sir John Harvey, Inspector General of Police :“ Has there been much difficulty in obtaining evidence so
as to detect persons connected with this Whitefeet system ?In consequence of the system of intimidation, and the extensive nature of the combination, there has been great difficulty, but that has been in some measure overcome.
“ Has it been a difficulty of such a nature that the long continuance of the system enabled it to get great head before there were any means of checking it by the execution of the law ?-It has acquired a very great strength, but it has yielded to those means I have alluded to. 6. In what
think it has been overcome ?—By the exertions of very intelligent magistrates and police officers, who have had funds placed at their disposal, and have made a judicious use of them; it is impossible to obtain information without payment.
“Were those funds appropriated till lately?—I think perhaps not quite sufficiently early; that means of remedy was not applied till it was clearly called for.
“Was it found possible to obtain evidence, or to execute the law, without having recourse to those means ?-I should think it was impossible.
“ It was found in practice there was a great extent of crime committed, and no person apprehended ?-Yes.
“ Does that appear upon the returns of your officers ?—It is a part of our instructions to them to use their utmost exertions to procure that evidence, but it was found impracticable. ·
Has it occurred to you that you have seen an account of several hundred crimes, and hardly the arrest of a single person concerned ?-Yes, I might say so to a very great extent, at one period.”—H. C., 1832, Nos. 1944-51.
Myles J. O'Reilly, Esq. :
“Do you think that witnesses are sufficiently protected for the support of the due administration of the law ?- The dangers and difficulties which in Ireland all witnesses, who come forward to prosecute in insurrectionary cases, encounter, are so certain and so great, that I am often amazed that they are found to come forward at all. I think I have already men