Solicitor Restrained from Breaking Through Judicial Procession Sues for Assault, 1898

From the Weekly Nation, 30 April 1898:

“Constable 141A was summoned [for assault] by Mr Alfred MacDermott, solicitor.

Mr McDermott said he was crossing under the covered passage at the coffee room door of the Four Courts [when he got] a blow across the chest from the defendant… he was seized from behind by the defendant by the collar and pushed up against a stone pillar and held there.  The next thing he heard was Judge Johnson saying “Let go that gentleman; he is a solicitor.”

Cross-examined: He was aware it was the custom of the judges to walk in procession on the first day of the term.  He had a stick with him.  He always carried a stick.  Have you got it today? No (laughter) You left it at home for this case.  The procession had not all passed, but there was no judge passing at the time he sought to pass

Evidence was given that the procession of judges had about half passed when Mr MacDermott, stick in hand, tried to force his way through them between the Lord Chancellor and Judge Johnson .. the constable told the people to keep back.  Mr Mac Dermott began to remonstrate, and said “How dare you, Sir!” Then he forced his way across… The constable caught him by the coat.  Mr MacDermott tried to pull away and they went up against the stone pillar.

[The magistrate] said in his opinion Mr MacDermott improperly attempted to force his way across the procession, and break the line of the procession.  The constable did no more than his duty, and the summons must be dismissed.   The result was received in court with applause.”

The coffee-room was situated in what is now the Law Library and the covered passage where all this occurred is today the Square Hall. The judges were proceeding to the Benchers’ Rooms which were in the vicinity of the current Barristers’ Tea Room.

Mr MacDermott had previously eloped to Gretna Green with Charles Stuart Parnell’s sixteen-year-old sister Sophy. The marriage was not popular with all members of the Parnell family. Parnell’s sister Emily liked to refer to Sophy and Alfred as ‘Beauty and the Beast.’

Still alive in 1898, Emily must have enjoyed reading about the incident above!

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Author: Ruth Cannon BL

Irish barrister sharing the history of the Four Courts, Dublin, Ireland, and other Irish courts.

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