asked the Minister for Justice if he will state (a) if he is aware that Matthew Coughlan was arrested in Dublin during the last general election for personation; that he was sentenced to imprisonment and fined in the District Court for this offence; that he appealed to the Circuit judge who affirmed the order of fine and imprisonment and that he appealed further to two judges of the High Court who also affirmed the conviction, fine and imprisonment; (b) if the term of imprisonment so confirmed by three courts has been served; (c) if there has been any remission of this sentence by whom and by virtue of what authority has such remission been made; (d) the grounds upon which such remission, if any, was made and (e) if, prior to such remission being made, any report upon the case was sought from either the district justice, or the Circuit judge, or the High Court judges concerned, and if any recommendation to remit was received from them or any of them.
Ceistenna-Questions. Oral Answers. - Arrest and Imprisonment for Personation.
The reply to part (a) is in the affirmative, and to part (b) in the negative. As regards the other parts of the question, the remission was made in the usual way in the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, and took the form of remitting the term of imprisonment imposed, which was two months, on condition that the offender paid double the fine imposed, which was £5. The district justice who imposed the penalties was consulted; the judges of the higher courts were not consulted as it was understood that the case came before them on a purely legal point without reference to the merits. It is not the practice to publish the grounds on which the prerogative of mercy is exercised or the nature of the advice given by any judge or justice whom the Minister consults. I may say however that in the present case the justice was obliged by the Statute to inflict a minimum sentence of two months' imprisonment, and that sentence cannot therefore be taken as necessarily representing the punishment which would in the justice's view have been proper, in all the circumstances of the case, if he had been allowed a discretion.
Do I understand the Minister to say that the appeal that was taken to the Circuit Judge was on a legal point only? Would the Minister consult even the newspapers which recorded the account of it? He will find that the appeal was to the Circuit Court Judge on the ground that this was not like a theft and the Circuit Judge replied that it was worse and meaner than a theft and on that ground he imposed the penalty, not because it was the maximum but because it was deserved.
If the Deputy had read the newspapers, he would not have the number of questions on the Order Paper that he has to-day.
If the Minister had read them, he would not be able to reply as he apparently intends to.