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Criminal Law—Fenian Prisoners

Volume 218: debated on Friday 27 March 1874

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Question

asked the Secretary of State for the Homo Department, "Whether any of the remaining Fenian prisoners were implicated in the murder of the Manchester policeman, or in the Clerkenwell outrage, or in any other non-political crime; and if the time has not come when he might safely recommend that the Royal clemency be extended to all those prisoners whose offence is distinctly political, even if aggravated by their having been in Her Majesty's service?

I cannot undertake to place any exact interpretation upon certain terms used in the Question of the hon. Member—namely, what is a non-political crime and what is an offence distinctly political. I will, therefore, confine myself to stating the number of prisoners now undergoing sentence. There are two prisoners, undergoing penal servitude for life, connected with the murder of the policeman at Manchester; there are no prisoners undergoing sentence connected with the Clerkenwell outrage; there are two prisoners undergoing sentences of 15 and 7 years respectively for treason-felony in supplying arms to the Fenians at the time of the outbreak, one of them being their specially accredited agent. There are, in addition, 11 soldiers under sentence for life—3 in England, and 8 in Australia. Two of these had been sentenced to death, but that sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. There are also throe more soldiers in Australia for shorter sentences—one for 15 years, two for 10 years—who are now, probably, on tickets-of-leave; and there are two prisoners in Ireland under sentences of 20 years and 10 years respectively for shooting at the Constabulary. It is not the intention of the Government to interfere with the course of law.