Extradition also a problem in 1880s

In November 1875, the Castletown Magistrates wrote to Dublin Castle seeking advice on a case which had come before them at the local Petty Sessions.

The following is the reply they received: Dublin Castle, 24th November, 1875. Gentlemen, I am directed by the Lord Lieutenant to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th instant and in reply to inform you that the Law Adviser cannot be called upon to give an opinion on an abstract case. I am therefore to request that you will, when requiring legal advice, be good enough to send the particulars of any case that may come before you, stating names etc., and then your communications will be submitted to the law Adviser for his opinion. I am, Gentlemen, your obedient servant, T.H. Burke.

In reply to this letter, the Clerk of the Castletown Petty Sessions wrote: Castletown Petty Sessions, 29th November, 1875. Sir, Referring to your communication of 24th November. The case the Magistrates desire to be instructed on is that of Cornelius Sullivan, who was summoned to appear at Petty Sessions on 1st October, 1875, for a nuisance dangerous to people. He appeared, was convicted and an entry made in the Order Book. The nuisance to be removed, he had to pay two shillings and six pence costs. He paid the costs but did not abate the nuisance: (1) Can the Magistrates now issue the Order under their hand and seal, required by the 18& 29 Vic c121-Sec. 12. (2) Had the Magistrates the power under any of the Statuary Acts to have imposed a fine at the hearing of the case and previous to the issue of the Order above refereed to? (3) If the Magistrates have now the power after the lapse of two months to issue this order and should it have a Petty Sessions Stamp. Unfortunately we couldn’t find out what was the outcome.

In another letter to the Clerk of Castletown Petty Sessions about the appointment of an Inspector of Explosives in Castletown, dated 4th March, 1881: Gentlemen, Having learned from the Clerk of Petty Sessions that you are about to appoint an Inspector of Explosives, and also that there is not at Castletown Petty Sessions amongst the Circulars addressed to magistrates a copy of the enclosed circular, I beg a direction of His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant to draw your attention to provision therein made by the Home Office for the discharge of duties of office in question.”

Looking at these old letters, it seems that way back over a hundred years ago, extradition was as much a problem as it is today? These problems were set out in a hand written letter from Dublin Castle to the Magistrates at Castletown. Date 22nd February, 1886. Gentlemen, I am directed by the Lord Lieutenant to inform you that His Excellency feels it necessary to call your attention to the great importance of care and accuracy in preparing the Information and Warrant on which it is proposed to found an application to the Government of a Foreign Country or of a Colony for the surrender of a fugitive from justice.

Cases have recently occurred in which, after a fugitive criminal has been apprehended in a foreign country, it has been found that the documents furnished in support of the demand for his extradition were incorrect in form or that the evidence was defective in material points and the accused person has been released before steps could be taken to remedy the mistake.

With a view to avoiding such miscarriages of justice it is desirable that the utmost care should be taken that the warrant be properly drawn and signed and that the evidence to be submitted to the Foreign or Colonial Court be sufficient to establish against the accused such a Prima Facie case as would in this country justify a Committal for Trial; also that if copies of the information are sent instead of the originals, such copies should be duly authenticated and certified.

It sometimes happens that the flight of an accused person is not discovered until after the warrant has been issued or an information may be hastily prepared with a view to secure immediate apprehension. His Excellency would therefore recommend that on it being ascertained that the accused person has fled to a country with which Great Britain has a Treaty of Extradition or to a Colony, it should be carefully considered whether it is not advisable that a fresh warrant should be set forth in the terms of the treaty. I am, Gentlemen, your obedient servant, R.J. C. Hamilton.

Courtesy of the Southern Star
November 2005