Nation 10th August, 1844 p.8
The Rev. J.B., formerly a clergyman of the Catholic church, stationed at Kinvarra, County Galway, and now a professing Protestant, was placed in the dock and given in charge to the jury, indicted for having administered an illegal oath to one M.H., that she would not tell any person to whom a certain child belonged until he gave her leave; and on a second count for having tendered another oath to one P.T., an apothecary, to the effect that he would not divulge the situation which his wife was in.
The prisoner, a rather young countenanced person, pleaded not guilty. This case appeared to excite intense interest, particularly among the Protestant clergymen, a large concourse of whom swarmed about the clock, and were in frequent communication with the prisoner’s counsel.
Messrs. French, Q.C., Ellis, Baker, and Mathew Atkinson, prosecuted on the part of the crown; and the prisoner was defended by Messrs Walter Burke and Charles Granby Burke.
Mr W. Bourke applied to the court that the prisoner should be allowed to sit at the side bar with his counsel.
Baron Lefroy: As the charge is one of felony, no distinction can be made. The prisoner must take his place in the dock.
The prisoner was then put into the dock, and walked up to the front bar, apparently very much excited and embarrassed. M.H. was the first witness produced. She deposed on her examination by Mr. French, Q.C. to the following effect;
I know the prisoner, whom I saw in the month of May last, at his own house in Kinvarra; I am a nurse tender and for the last twelve years I practiced midwifery; the Rev. M.B. employed me to attend his wife who was pregnant; I did attend her, and she was delivered of a boy; that child is now dead; I saw the prisoner after his wife was delivered, and also subsequent to the death of his child; he desired me not to tell whose was the child until he gave me permission; that is all he told me.
Mr. French Q.C: Did he require you to make any asseveration?
Mr. W. Bourke objected to this question, and directed the witness not to attempt answering it.
Baron Lefroy: In strictness, Mr. French, that is a leading question. In what manner did the prisoner direct you not to tell about the child?
Witness: that is all the manner.
Mr. C.G.Bourke submitted, as witness had already repeatedly answered the question, the counsel for the crown had no right to press her further.
Mr. French, Q.C: Pray, madam, when the prisoner required you to keep this secret about this child did he produce a book?
Witness: What if he did; I see a great many books about me here.
Mr. French, Q.C: It is quite clear that that wretched woman has been bought over.
In the information taken before Charles Wallace, R. Gregory, Francis Butler, James Daly and J.B. Kilmain Esqrs, this witness swore that on Saturday, the 11th day of May last, the Rev.J.B, at Castlelodge Kinvara,did feloniously and unlawfully administer to her a certain oath or engagement upon a book, importing to bind her to secrecy and “not to communicate to any person the birth of his child, who was born on the midday of Saturday, the 11th of May last, in the dwelling house of the said Rev. J.B. of Castlelodge, but to conceal the birth thereof, against the form of the statute in that case made and provided.”
Patrick Taaffe examined by Mr. Ellis: I know the prisoner, he resides within a quarter of a mile of Kinvarra, County Galway; I recollect that on the 8th May he called on me to attend his wife; I did so and bled her; nothing more occurred on that day, but on the following morning I found her unwell with inflammation of the stomach; she was pregnant; before I went into her room Mr. B. brought me into an adjoining room, and said that as an old acquaintance he would rely on anything I would promise, but that Mrs B would not be satisfied unless I swore to conceal the situation in which she then was; I told him that as a medical man I would, of course, keep professional secrets, but that I would take no oath; he then put his hand in his pocket, and taking out a bible he laid it on the table and said, “there is the book, and take your oath.” I was of course displeased, and I tole him that if he had not confidence in my keeping a professional secret without taking an oath, he should get some other person to attend his wife; I then left him, he first apologising; he did not ask me more than once to take my oath at that time; when I saw his wife on Saturday she was in labour; I know M. H; I did not see her there then.
After a very severe and searching cross-examination by Mr.W.Bourke, Baron Lefroy asked the witness, if at the time the prisoner asked him to swear to the keeping of the condition of his wife’s secret, he had produced the bible? The witness replied that the prisoner first spoke about the matter, and afterwards produced the book from under his coat, saying, there take your oath, and said nothing more.
Mr. W. Bourke; Now, my lord, that being the case, I respectfully call upon your lordship to direct the acquittal. There has been no oath, much less evidence, of its having been tendered.
Baron Lefroy: As the prisoner did not actually tender the oath, after producing the book, the offence, in law, cannot be sustained, and I must direct a verdict of acquittal.
The jury then filled up the issue paper, returning a verdict of not guilty, according to his lordship’s directions.
On leaving the dock the prisoner was warmly greeted by a number of Protestant clergymen who took him under their protection. He shook hands with the first witness most heartily and said he thanked her sincerely. The crowd who thronged the court-house was very much excited at the result.