Derby Prisoners (Release).

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Ireland. – in the House of Commons on 22nd March 1922.

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Photo of Mr Winston Churchill Mr Winston Churchill , Dundee

As I stated in the reply which I gave to the hon. Member on the 20th instant, the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland gave directions that these prisoners were not to be prosecuted. That statement was correct. I regret, however, to find that, in reply to a supplementary question by the hon. and learned Member for York (Sir J. Butcher) I inadvertently gave the House an erroneous impression in regard to the grounds of the Attorney-General's action in the matter. I said that he had taken his decision on a calculation of the evidence and on general grounds. I understand that, in fact, the course taken by the Northern Attorney-General was the result of a decision for which the Northern Government, as a whole, was responsible, and was prompted by a desire to ease a difficult situation. It has frequently been the practice in Ireland, in cases where the Attorney-General has decided not to proceed further with the case against the prisoner awaiting trial, for the Lord Lieutenant to release the prisoner, and it was in accordance with this precedent that the Lord Lieutenant acted on the present occasion. In the communication from Sir James Craig, to which I referred in my reply to the hon. Member on the 20th instant, he expressly left the responsibility for further action in the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, and, in placing the facts before the Lord Lieutenant, after receipt of that communication, I advised him that it was within his power and would be in accordance with practice to act as he did.