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Mr O'connor

Volume 54: debated on Monday 22 June 1840

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presented a petition from Mr. Feargus O'Connor, to which he begged leave to call the attention of his noble Friend. The petitioner re-stated his former complaints as to the treatment which he had received in York Castle, particularly as to his having been prevented from seeing his legal adviser. He averred that his former statements were correct, which related to his treatment from the 21st of May up to the 1st of June, and stated, that any alteration which had taken place in his treatment had occurred since the last mentioned period. He complained, that the inquiry set on foot into the allegations made by him was not a just one, and that, considering his state of health, he ought not to have been removed to a distant prison. He (Lord Brougham) knew nothing whatever as to the correctness of these statements, but he felt it to be his duty to lay this petition, in which Mr. O'Connor complained of his unfortunate situation, before their Lordships, and thus to give his noble Friend an opportunity, as he then did, to give any explanation on the subject which he might think proper.

said, that the petitioner, in the first place, was under a complete misapprehension as to the nature of the inquiry that had been set on foot, in consequence of his representations. A gentleman had been sent down to inquire whether the magistrates had complied with the rules and regulations of the prison, or whether they had exceeded them. The other part of the inquiry was directed for his own information, to enable him to judge whether it would be proper for him to take steps to remove Mr. O'Connor from York Castle to another prison. As to the first point, it was found that the magistrates had not violated any of the rules or regulations of the prison in the case of Mr. O'Connor; and, as to the second, nothing appeared that called for his removal. On this point, he had endeavoured to acquire all the information that he possibly could, and on that information he had acted. He did not wish to enter at large into Mr. O'Connor's representations on this occasion, but he was bound to say, that, in his mind, the weight of the testimony of the magistrates preponderated on every point. So far from any undue labour being imposed on Mr. O'Connor, one of the prisoners was directed to attend to him, and that man complained to Mr. Crawford of the extra labour imposed on him in consequence. It was denied that Mr. O'Connor was compelled to perform menial offices. He volunteered to assist in cleaning the yard, but was requested not to do so, and after he had wetted his feet, he desisted. As to the refusal to allow his professional adviser to see him, that was not the fact. Orders were given, that his professional advisers should have access to him at all convenient times, and Mr. Crawford stated that the gentleman who was represented to be Mr. O'Connor's legal adviser, and who, it was alleged, was refused admission to him, told him that he did not want to see Mr. O'Connor on professional business. As to his accommodation, it was stated that Mr. O'Connor's cell was furnished with a chair, a table, and a carpet. He was not called on to perform any menial office. He was locked up, and retired to rest every night at 9 o'clock, and remained thus till 7 in the morning. Finally, he was allowed newspapers and other publications. There was another point, with respect to which Mr. O'Connor seemed to labour under great misapprehension. His being sent to York Castle, was not the act of the Secretary of State, but of the judges. They considered which was the most proper place of confinement for Mr. O'Connor, and they selected York Castle. An objection was made to that prison, and an inquiry relative to it was instituted, the result of which was, that it was declared to be a very proper place. Application was afterwards made, stating that Mr. O'Connor could not be removed immediately without great danger to his life; and he had directed that Mr. O'Connor should not be removed until inquiry was made into the actual state of his health. The responsibility rested with the Marshal of the Queen's Bench to carry the sentence of the law into effect; and he exercised his discretion, after a communication with the Home-office, in sending Mr. O'Connor away. He believed, that, during the journey, Mr. O'Connor never complained of ill-health. He did not mean to speak lightly of the painfulness of Mr. O'Connor's situation; but he believed, that under all the circumstances the utmost indulgence had been given to him during his confinement.

said, it was true that the Secretary of State had nothing at all to do with sending Mr. O'Connor, in the first instance, to York Castle. But Mr. O'Connor complained, that the application which he afterwards made to the Home-office to be removed from that prison, was refused. With respect to being debarred from seeing his legal adviser, the petitioner positively asserted the fact, and flatly contradicted the statement on the other side.

said, Mr. Crawford's statement was, that he was told that Mr. Clarkson, who was described as the professional adviser of Mr. O'Connor, wished to see him; but, on inquiry, he found that it was not on professional business. He was convinced that Mr. O'Connor's professional adviser was not refused admission to him, because strict orders were given that his friends and relations should be admitted at proper and convenient times, and, above all, that his professional adviser should have easy and ready access to him.

Petition laid on the table.