R (Hastings) v Galway Justices

CourtKing's Bench Division (Ireland)
JudgeK. B. Div.
Judgment Date12 June 1906
Date12 June 1906
The King (William Hastings)
The Chairman and Justices of Galway (1).

K. B. Div.











Justices — Acquittal — Bias — Order — Voidable, not void — Certiorari — Nemo debet bis vexari, &c.

An order of acquittal made by a Chairman and Justices of Quarter Sessions (assuming one of the Justices to have been biassed) cannot be quashed on certiorari.

The order of a biassed tribunal is voidable only, not void.

Motion to make absolute a conditional order of certiorari to bring up to be quashed an order of the Chairman and Justices of Galway, sitting at Ballinasloe, on the 25th October, 1905, on the hearing of an appeal of John L. Beegan against a conviction made at the suit of William Hastings against John L. Beegan at Ballinasloe Petty Sessions on the 8th January, 1905, reversing the order of the magistrates with 40s. costs. The conviction by the magistrates was a conviction under the Local Government Application of Enactments Order, 1898, Article 12 (4), for acting as a member of the Ballinasloe Urban District Council when disqualified from so acting by reason of being himself concerned in a contract with the County Council of Galway, in the Rural District Council of Ballinasloe, for the work of inscribing Irish characters on milestones, the property of the County Council. Upon the conviction a fine of £1 1s., together with 1s. 6d. for costs, was imposed, or in default of payment imprisonment in Galway Gaol for a period of one fortnight without hard labour unless said sums be sooner paid. The appeal from the conviction came, on the 25th October, 1905, before the Quarter Sessions consisting of His Honor Judge Anderson and Thomas Byrne, J.P., who reversed the conviction with costs against the prosecutor. The prosecutor alleged that the Court was improperly constituted by reason of the adjudication of Thomas Byrne, he

being a person prejudiced and biassed against the prosecutor and in favour of the accused by personal relations with him, and he made an affidavit containing the following statements:—

“Thomas Byrne was a director of the Ballinasloe Printing and Publishing Company, and the defendant was a shareholder in the same Company, which Company printed and published a newspaper called The Connaught Leader. This paper was a rival paper of The Western News, a paper printed and published by the prosecutor in Ballinasloe for several years. The two rival papers had been engaged in bitter conflicts and controversies, and there had been a great deal of litigation (civil and criminal) between the directors of the Ballinasloe Printing and Publishing Company and the prosecutor. In February, 1905, the prosecutor took proceedings against Thomas Byrne and the other directors of the Company, and sought to have them bound to the peace for malicious libels and inciting to assault, which libels were at present the subject of a civil action in the High Court of Justice. At the time Thomas Byrne adjudicated he was personally, with the other directors of the Company, defendant in a prosecution by the prosecutor under the Companies Acts, and was subsequently fined in the sum of £5 for having failed for several years to make the annual returns necessary to be made under the Companies Acts. By reversing the conviction of John L. Beegan on appeal, the business of Thomas Byrne and John L. Beegan in the newspaper aforesaid was substantially benefited by the active influence of John L. Beegan at the Urban Council Board in procuring contracts for printing and advertising from the Board for the Company at prices higher than the complainant's tenders. Thomas Byrne was interested in stuffing the public Boards with shareholders of the Company of which he was a director, that they might directly or indirectly influence all contracts for printing and advertising at these Boards of which he was himself a member, which Boards had now for years accepted the highest tender from his Company; and the removal of John L. Beegan from two of these Boards, on the conviction had, would, if not reversed, be a direct financial loss to the Company of which Thomas Byrne was a director.”

He further alleged that Thomas Byrne was, at the date referred to, president of a political organisation known as the Ballinasloe branch of the United Irish League, and John L. Beegan was secretary of the same branch, and that for this reason also Thomas Byrne was biassed in favour of John L. Beegan. “On the hearing of the appeal, and before the case was gone into, I objected strongly to the constitution of the Court. On some of the grounds I appealed to Judge Anderson for an expression of opinion as to the propriety of Thomas Byrne adjudicating; but the learned Judge refused to interfere beyond saying that the said Thomas Byrne adjudicated at his own risk.”

Thomas Byrne made an affidavit in which he stated that the sole ground of objection raised at the Quarter Sessions was that he was president of the local branch of the United Irish League, and that the defendant was a member of the same branch. As a matter of fact, he was not then, nor was he now, president of the branch; but in any event he did not consider that his judgment would in any way be interfered with by the fact that the defendant and he were both members of the same political organisation. It was true that he was a director of the Ballinasloe Printing and Publishing Company; but, at the time of the adjudication in this case, no prosecution was pending against the Company at the suit of the prosecutor, it having been disposed of at the previous Sessions. Until he read the conditional order, he was not aware that John L. Beegan was a shareholder in the Company. The case was really decided by the presiding Judge on a point of law, without any reference to him for his opinion on the merits.

Bartley, for the prosecutor:—

The acquittal by the Quarter Sessions should be quashed, on the ground that Byrne was biassed. There is jurisdiction to quash an acquittal pronounced by an unauthorized tribunal, without infringing the principle, Nemo debet bis vexari, &C., because the accused was never in peril. It was decided in In re Hopkins (1) that when an appeal is determined at Quarter Sessions by magistrates, some of whom are interested in the matter, the proceeding is null. So the acquittal here is a nullity—not voidable, but void.

In Re Hopkins (1) was never overruled. It is plain from the judgment of Gibson, J., in The Queen v. The Justices of Waterford (2) that bias is to be placed in the same category as corruption, fraud, &c., and that when a tribunal is affected by bias, the accused is never in peril. In this case the accused had been convicted by the magistrates, and he exposed himself to no peril by appealing to Quarter Sessions. He appealed in order to escape peril. It is impossible to distinguish this case from The King (M'Grath) v. Chairman and Justices of Clare (3).

Henry, K.C., and Macdermot, for Thos. Byrne, showing cause:

An order made by a biassed tribunal is voidable only, and not void. Until such an order is quashed, it is a legal order; and imprisonment under such an order is legal imprisonment. Therefore, the accused was in peril of legal imprisonment, and the principle, Nemo debet bis vexari, &c., applies. In The Queen v. Russell (4), Lord Campbell said: “If there be an improper conviction, it should be set aside; but I hope that the same practice will never prevail in the case of acquittal.” [The following cases were also referred to: R. v. The Justices of Surrey (5) and In the Matter of M. C. Newton (6).]

Bartley, in reply.

Cur. adv. vult.

Lord O'Brien, L.C.J.:—

The question in this case must often have arisen, and the fact that it is not concluded by express authority tends to show that there is no substantial foundation for the arguments put forward on behalf of the applicant here. The question is this—Can an order of acquittal pronounced by Justices at Petty Sessions, or by a Chairman and Justices at Quarter Sessions, one of whom was biassed, be brought up on certiorari and quashed, so that the accused may be subjected to trial again? There is no instance in the history of our law of an acquittal under such circumstances being brought up on certiorari. What is the principle? That a man cannot be put in peril twice for the same offence. Was this

man put in peril before the tribunal that is alleged to be biassed? I am of opinion that he was, and for this reason, that the order of a biassed tribunal is voidable only, and not void. That such an order is voidable only, and not void, clearly follows from the case of Dimes v. The Grand Junction Canal Co. (1)—a familiar case, and one of the highest authority. Now, if the order is voidable only, and not void, the accused was in peril when he stood before the tribunal. Though in this case he was acquitted, he might have been convicted. He was certainly in peril, because he might have been arrested and imprisoned on a voidable order, and a very considerable time might elapse before a voidable order could be avoided by proceedings by way of certiorari. Until avoided, a voidable order justifies both arrest and imprisonment.

Although there is no decided case precisely in point, some references have been made to the question in recent times. One of the cases to which I refer is The Queen v. The Justices of Antrim (2). I may, perhaps, be permitted to refer to what I said in that case. At pages 635,636 I am reported to have said:—

“The offence with which Love, the defendant in the summons, was charged is one punishable by fine and imprisonment, and the order sought to be quashed is one of acquittal. In the whole range of our law there is no precedent for the granting, or even the making, of such an application in a case where there has been an acquittal by the magistrates...

To continue reading

Request your trial
17 cases
  • People (Attorney General) v Kennedy
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 21 December 1946
    ...2 C. & P. 585, at p. 589. (2) 20 Beav. 269. (3) 3 E. & B. 942. (4) [1895] 2 I. R. 603. (5) [1906] 2 I. R. 298. (6) [1911] A. C. 47. (7) [1906] 2 I. R. 499. (8) [1914] 1 K. B. 66. (9) 2 Swanston 1. (10) [1905] 2 I. R. 510. (11) 11 Q. B. 205. (12) 10 C. & F. 534. (13) 4 M. & Sel. 337. (1) 8 C......
  • Stephens v Connellan
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 21 December 2002
    ...commencing with R (Drohan) -v- The Justices of Waterford [1901] 2 I.R. 548 and including R (Hastings) -v- The Justices of Galway [1906] 2 I.R. 499, cases which conclusively establish that a conviction set aside for bias is not a nullity but is one made within jurisdiction and thus permits t......
  • People v O'Shea
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 1 January 1983
    ...A.C. 458. 52 In re Haughey [1971] I.R. 217. 53 The State (Healy) v. Donoghue [1976] I.R. 325. 54 R. (Hastings) v. Justices of Galway [1906] 2 I.R. 499. 55 R. (McGrath) v. Justices of Clare [1905] 2 I.R. 510. 56 The Queen v. Duncan (1881) 7 Q.B.D. 198. 57 The Queen v. Russell (1854) 3 El.&Bl......
  • Mark Gilmartin v Judge Murphy and DPP
    • Ireland
    • High Court
    • 23 February 2001
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT