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'THE TIMES’-PARNELL COMMISSION., Issue 7904, 11 May 1889, Supplement
'THE TIMES ’-PARNELL COMMISSION.
GROSS CONTEMPT OP COURT BY A
AN AMUSING SCENE,
[From Our Special Correspondent.]
London, March 15,
If further proof were wanting of the extraordinary manner in which ' The Times's' case against the Parnellites has been got up it is to be found in the fact that the erratic and apparently half - insane witness Coffey (who kept the Court amused, and nearly gave Sir James Hannen a fit, throughout the greater part of Tuesday, and of whose aberrations you will already have heard something by cable) has received from Mr Soames for expenses, etc., no less than Llls.
Mr Coffey, who was described as a reporter attached to the Cork ' Herald,' wore a heavy brown Inverness cape and yellow gloves, and carried a silk hat in his hands. His manner at once struck the spectators as peculiarly jaunty and self-satisfied, whilst his voice was supercilious, and at times even contemptuous. After a few preliminary questions, in the course of which the witness more than once came to loggerheads with Sir Henry James, Coffey calmly turned to tho Bench and informed them blandly that the statement upon which he was being examined was "utterly false." "But you made and signed it yourself," objected counsel. "Ah !" said the witness, as if uttering a smavt epigram, " statements are one thing, but evidence is another." He went on to describe with inteuse relish how Mr Shannon (Mr Soames's colleague) came to try and fish a statement out of him, and how he resolved to give the young gentleman a thoroughly sensational one, implicating at least two members of Parliament in murder.
The onlookers enjoyed Mr Coffey immensely. Not bo, however, the Judgeß —more particularly the President, whose face grew darker and darker. Again and again he tried to stem the flow of Mr Coffey's eloquence and quell his insolent self-sufficiency, but without success. "It is a shoclting thing," solemnly said Sir James, " that a man of your position should have been guilty of this imposition." " You wouldn't say that if yoa knew as much of Ireland as I do, my Lord !" coolly retorted the witness.
Then the storm broke, and with greater fury than it has ever done before during the Commission. " Will you," almost shouted Sir James, pink with anger, "endeavor, sir, to conduct yourself with decency." Coffey's attitude was the opposite to conciliatory. "I am endeavoring to do so," he asserted ; " but the learned gentleman's questions are so absurd." "If you do not conduct yourself in a different manner," said the President, "I will commit you to prison. Therefore be careful."
" All right, my lord," answered Coffey in a most irritating tone.
People trembled for this venturesome witness. The President had long given up his attempts to restrain his anger. "Be careful," he thundered ; " I will not be trifled with."
"Nor will I," replied the tantalising and daring Coffey, rushing in like a fool where angelic counsel fear to tread. " You are," said the President, " consciously or unconsciously exhibiting something which ib really jpainful to listen to in your character. Now pay attention." " All right, my lord," answered Coffey, still in that irritating and supercilious manner of his.
The President's anger impeded his speech at first. At length he broke out: "I don't consider it is all right. Don't provoke me too far. That is not the way to answer me. Don't answer me at all. Answer the counsel.'
" I am answering the counsel, my lord," said Coffey, immediately disobeying the injunction of the President. What the consequences would have been nobody can say, but Sir Henry James, while the President was waiting for words, put an end to the painful scene by chipping in with a question. The danger was thus averted, but the impression in Court was general that the witness was safe to get committed before his examination was concluded. The luncheon interval here occurred. Coffey, on the application of Sir Henry James, was not allowed to leave the Court, and, on his own application, he had some lunch brought in to him at the expense of Victoria Regina—almost a premium on improper behaviour in the witness-box. On the reassembling of the Court Sir Henry Jamep continued his examination of this extraordinary witness. "Is your statement true about this blowing up a house of which you speak ?" he asked. " I heard so," said Coffey ; " but I do not believe it was blown up, because it was a caretaker's residence, as I stated." Sir Henry James took him through his statements Beriatim, and each one he categorically denied, without any decrease of the superciliousness of his manner.
The President, holding up a warning finger, reminded him that he was continuing his behaviour.
Coffee looked down at a paper he had long been fumbling with, a statement he had written out, which he had oeen told to put on ono side. " I have," said the President, " several times toM you not to refer to that paper ; put it away, sir."
The witness thrust it in hia breast pocket with a melodramatic gesture, and Sir Henry James continued to road the statement Coffey had made to Shannon. In that statement Coffey alleged that he joined the 1.R.8. in 1876, and that when the Land League was started the two organisations worked in harmony. He also referred to the Committee of the Land League. "Whatdo you mean by the Committee ?" asked Sir Henry James.—" Committee is a very ordinary word," replied Coffey. _ ( " What do you mean by the Committee ?' insisted Sir Henry James.—" I use the word in its ordinary dictionary meaning, replied Coffey. Sir Henry James reiterated the question. " Don't trifle with me," said the witness to Sir Henry James, with a clever assumption of the President's manner. Then, turning to the Bench, he was about to appeal to their lordships. But the President anticipated him. " I do not intend to be trifled with," said Sir James Hannen. "I shall deal with you when we come to the end of your evidence." p The witness went on, in answer to Sir Henry James, still declaring that every word of his statement to Shannon was untrue. Meanwhile the President busied himself with his pen, and then threw over to the secretary, Mr Cunynghame, a document which looked uncommonly like a committal order. When Mr Reid came to cross-examine, he directed his questions towards eliciting what money the witness had made out of his statements. "When I made my first statement," said Coffey, "I got 1A or L 5 from the police. That I regarded as a sort of secret service money, which was beiDg tolerably well circulated in the neighborhood. Then I telegraphed to Mr Soames that I could not come unless I had LIOO. I got a letter from Mr Soames saying he could not comply, but after this Mr Shannon called on me. He said Soames was a very decent fellow, and he believed he would see I was looked after. In consequence of what he told me I went to his office in Dublin, and there I got L 50." What did you do with the money ?—Oh, it enabled me to see London, that's all.— (Laughter.) Proceeding, Coffey said that he subsequently received from Soames L4O and L2O. Re-examined, he said the first LSO was for his personal expenses for one month, but as he had been in London nearly three months he bad had the additional sum. You have asked for more money and beep refused, I understand ?—Yes. And so you have given your evidence a? you have? Then Sir Henry James sat down, and the President cleared his throat. "We are of opinion," said Sir James Hannen, " that you have been guilty of a gross contempt of Court. In the first place your manner has been insolent both to counsel and to the Court during your examm-
ation, and I take the opportunity of adding that, in our judgment, you have been guilty of still more serious contempt of Court. You have avowed that you have told a long tissue of lies for the express purpose of deceiving the parties to whom you made it, and causing yourself to be brought us a witness here in order that you might then tell that which you call the truth. That was a most insolent interference with the course of justice. It was foisting yourself upon the Court, and taking up the time of the Court, for the purpose only of befooling those who had taken your evidence. Coming here with that intention, and taking up the time of the Court in that manner, we have no doubt you have been guilty of contempt of Court, and I accordingly commit you to prison." Coffey had been all through this judgment leaning listlessly on the ledge of the witness box. At the conclusion of the President's sentence he appealed to be heard. If the Court would postpone his case for an hour he would, he said, go to his lodgings in Torrington square and get bis letters and copies of the correspondence between himself and Soames, which would fix the contempt of Court upon the proper shoulders. " I told Mr Soames," he said, "timeafter time I could not give any evidence against Mr Parnell or the others charged." The President was inexorable. He ordered the removal of the witness, but added: "It must be proved hereafter if it be any mitigation of what you have said to the Court."
One of the warders here approached to take Coffey into custody, but the witness got a little quarter by leisurely donning his overcoat with the assistance of the usher. Then, taking up his silk hat and gloves, he attempted again to address the Court. " I have already said all I intend to say on the subject," said the President sternly ; "let him be removed."
Coffey was accordingly taken out of Court, he protesting the while that this was "intimidation of the worst form."
'THE TIMES’-PARNELL COMMISSION., Issue 7904, 11 May 1889, Supplement
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