Connors v Pearson

CourtCourt of Appeal (Ireland)
Judgment Date27 June 1921
Date27 June 1921

K. B. Div.


K. B. Div.

Connors v. Pearson.
TIMOTHY CONNORS, an Infant, by Thomas Connors, his next Friend
JOHN M'LAUGHLIN, a Minor, by Michael M'Laughlin, his Father and next Friend
Connors v. Pearson.

Police officer - Duty to prevent breach of the peace - Arrest and detention of

innocent person - Apprehension of danger to - Justification.

Connors v. Pearson.


The plaintiff, Timothy Connors, an infant, sued, by his father as next friend, the defendant, who was the Commandant of the Royal Irish Constabulary Depot.

The statement of claim alleged that on the 14th February, 1919, the defendant wrongfully imprisoned the plaintiff at the depot, and there wrongfully detained him until the 9th April, 1919.

The defendant, by his defence, traversed the acts complained of, and alternatively alleged that the plaintiff, by reason of his actions in aid of the administration of justice, was in grave danger of life and limb from the members of a criminal organization, whose activities were widespread throughout the country, and that it was necessary for the protection of the plaintiff that he should be detained in a safe place and guarded; and the acts complained of were done by the defendant, if at all, in the discharge of his duty as a peace officer for the prevention of criminal attacks upon the plaintiff. Upon these pleadings issue was joined. The plaintiff also submitted that the special defence was not good in law.

The action was tried before the Right Hon. Mr. Justice Pim and a special jury, on the 18th and 19th December, 1919, and the following summary of the evidence is taken from the learned Judge's report of the trial of the action:—

The plaintiff lives near Greenore, in the County of Tipperary, close to Soloheadbeg, at which latter place two policemen, who were protecting a cart which was under the control of the County Council of Tipperary, and which contained explosives about to be used for the purpose of blasting, were murdered. The boy had, as will be seen from the evidence, given some information to the police. He was taken by District Inspector Neylan, and brought to the barracks in Tipperary for the purpose of getting a complete statement from him. He was kept there for four days, and then sent up to the Constabulary Depot in the Phoenix Park, where he was kept for about two months. The defendant was and is the Commandant of the said depot. Early in April, 1919, an application was made to the King's Bench Division by the boy's father for a writ of habeas corpus directed to the defendant, requiring him to produce the body of the boy in Court on a day named. On the day on which the said application came before the Court the defendant released the said boy, and sent him back to his father. He made an affidavit, informing the Court of what he had done, and his reasons therefor.

The evidence was as fallows:—

Timothy Connors, the plaintiff:—I am twelve years old. My father is Thomas Connors, who lives near Greenane, in the County of Tipperary. I was living with him and my mother in February last. Early in February—I do not know the date, but it was on a Monday—I had been at the National School. When I came out I saw a motor car upon the road. I was with a number of other children. I was going home. I saw two motor cars and a covered military conveyance. We walked on towards the cars. Four policemen hopped out of the ditch, and told me to stand. They asked me my name. I gave it. They then asked me did I know who killed the two policemen. I said I did not. They then put me into the motor car, and drove me off to Tipperary Barracks. There were soldiers with the motor cars. They had guns and bayonets with them. I do not know how many soldiers there were. Three policemen and a soldier were in the car with me. It drove off first. District Inspector Neylan was one of the police. When the police hopped out of the ditch, one of the children ran away. The rest stayed there. There were three boys, and the rest were girls. I was kept in Tipperary Barracks from Monday until Friday. Before I was arrested I had never spoken to the police about the murders. On Friday, the 14th February, 1919, I was put into a motor car, and a coat was put on me. I was taken to the Limerick Junction. District Inspector Neylan and two other policemen were with me. I was brought into the station and put into a train, and was taken to Dublin. The same three policemen went with me to Dublin. At Dublin we got into a motor car, and were taken to the depot at Phoenix Park. I was kept there for a long time. While I was there I saw the District Inspector four or five times during the early part of the time I was there. He used to speak to me. A policeman was always with me day and night. I am a Catholic. I was not at Mass while I was in the depot, nor did I see a priest, and I heard nothing from my father or mother. I never spoke to anyone except the police. I was brought to the Castle about six times. I have shown Mr. Woods, solicitor, the door at which I entered. A man used to ask me questions about Soloheadbeg. I recollect being taken away from the depot. Sergeant Faughan took me home to my father's house. We walked to the Kingsbridge. He was in plain clothes.

Cross-examined.—I recollect hearing about the murder of the policemen on the evening it happened. They talked about it at home. My father and mother, my brother John and my sister were all talking about it. John is older than I am. They talked of all that happened at the time of the murders and after. The police were kind to me. I was not afraid at all. I spoke to them before they took me. My sister came up at the time, and told me to go home; not to speak to them, but to go home. My father then came up. He had a horse with him. He said nothing to me. My father said nothing, and did nothing, when the police ordered me into the motor car. I made no objection, and my father made no objection. The police treated me kindly. Sergeant Faughan was with me the whole time. He was very kind to me. I was happy with Sergeant Faughan. He used to go to the Castle with me. I answered all the questions put.

[The witness was here asked whether a woman had come to see him during his detention in the depot, who called herself his aunt. He remained silent, and no answer could be got from him to the question; but he said, in reply to a question put to him by counsel for the defendant, that the woman had not spoken about the murders, and had not threatened him.]

In answer to Mr. Healy, who re-examined him, he said: Faughan was not with him at the time at all. [That is, when the woman called.] I was at the Castle six or seven times. Statements were taken from me, which I signed. Two in all. When I was taken by the police, my father was driving a cart, with a load of coal.

Johanna Connors.—I reside with my husband at Greenane. He is a labourer. I heard of the arrest of my son on the evening of the 10th February. The children told me about it. My husband and I went that evening to the barracks in Tipperary, and we asked about the boy. It was about 8 o'clock. We were kept there about two hours. I did not know the police. We got no information. We left the barracks at 10 o'clock, about. On Saturday morning we went again. We had heard nothing up to that time. On Saturday they told me that the child was in the possession of the police. He was brought home on the 9th April, 1919, at 8 o'clock in the evening. It was getting dark. The boy said that the man with him was Sergeant Faughan. He was in plain clothes. He said to me that the boy was a fine boy, and that he had given him new clothes, and had been kind to him. He said that the washing was at the laundry, but that it would be sent to me as soon as it came back. We never got it. Since then the boy has had fair health, but has been subject to nervous fits. At night he gets fits, and falls unconscious. He screams in his sleep, and wakens up in a frightened state, with perspiration rolling off him. He sometimes gets it twice a week, and he then talks about the police. It is only at night he gets these fits. He won't go out alone. When he got back throngs came to see him. No one ever thought they would see him alive.

Cross-examined.—I never heard of a threat being made against anyone who communicated with the police. No one ever spoke to me about the danger of speaking to the police. I never heard of the proclamation. She was then asked whether she did not know the people were afraid to speak to the police. [Mr. Healy objected. I admitted the question.] She said she did not know it. I heard of the murder the night it took place. Soloheadbeg is only half a mile from us. I heard nothing except that it took place convenient to the quarry. The plaintiff was not present when I was informed. I have another son. My daughter never told me that the plaintiff had been speaking to the police about Soloheadbeg.

Thomas Connors.—I am a labourer. I have two sons, John and Tim. I was carting coal on the 10th February. As I came up I saw the two motors, and the police, and some children. There were sixty or eighty soldiers with fixed bayonets. I was told to halt by a policeman. I had seen Tim with the police, crying. The police asked me for a statement. I refused. I was searched, and then I went home. I had no conversation about the boy, but the District Inspector said he was taking him to Tipperary, and that he would be all right. I asked him what he wanted him for. He said again that he would be all right. I had no chance of speaking to the boy. I was about fifteen yards away from the boy when I pulled up. I was there by accident. I went with my wife to the barrack in Tipperary that evening. We waited two hours, and got no information. On Saturday we went again. They told me that the boy was in charge of the police. I heard nothing of him...

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6 cases
  • A.C. & Others v Cork University Hospital & Others
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    • 17 October 2019 restrain their personal liberty. That, he considered, was inconsistent with the common law, as demonstrated by the decision in Connors v. Pearson [1921] 2 I.R. 51 where O’Connor L.J. had said: “You cannot incarcerate a man or boy merely because his going abroad or his doing something th......
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