IN RE MEUNIER.

APPLICATION for a writ of habeas corpus to bring up and discharge a prisoner named Meunier, who had been committed by Sir John Bridge, the Chief Magistrate at Bow Street, for surrender to the French Government under the Extradition Acts, 1870 and 1873 (33 & 34 Vict c. 52; 36 & 37 Vict. c. 60).

The prisoner was charged with wilfully causing two explosions in France, one at the Café Véry in Paris, which caused the death of two persons, and the other at certain barracks. It was proved by the witnesses whose depositions were taken in France, as well as by a statement voluntarily made by the prisoner himself to the inspector of police who arrested him in London, that the prisoner was an anarchist.

The application was made in vacation[1] by summons at chambers, which Kennedy, J., referred to the Court.

The grounds of the application were four: (1.) that there was no evidence that the prisoner Meunier, who was brought up and committed at Bow Street, was the same person as Meunier, who was charged with the offences committed in France, and was referred to in the depositions taken in France; (2.) that the evidence relied on to connect the prisoner with the offences charged was the evidence of an accomplice, and was not corroborated; (3.) that two separate and distinct offences were included in one committal; (4.) that the. explosion at the barracks was an offence of a political character, within the meaning of the Extradition Act, 1870 (33 & 34 Vict. c. 52), s. 3 sub-s. 1[2], and therefore the prisoner was not liable to be surrendered in respect of that offence.

Burnie, for the prisoner, moved for an order for a habeas corpus, on the four grounds already stated.

The Solicitor General (R. T. Beid, Q.C.), (The Attorney General (Sir John Rigby, Q.C.), and H. Sutton, with him), for the Crown. As to identity, there are numerous points in which the facts stated, and the description of the accused given, in the depositions taken in France, coincide exactly with the facts appearing on the hearing at Bow Street, and all these coincidences taken together amount to ample evidence of identity.

As to corroboration, it is not a rule of law that an accomplice must be corroborated, but the question is one of practice, and the absence of corroboration would not be sufficient to invalidate a committal, where the magistrate, in the exercise of his discretion, was of opinion that a primâ facie case had been made out. In the present case, however, there is, in the French depositions, sufficient evidence of corroboration, if it were necessary.

As to the committal, the statute does not require separate committals.

As to the question of an offence of a political character, the evidence against the prisoner is such as to support charges of murder, attempt to murder, and wilful damage to building which are in no sense political offences.

Burnie, for the prisoner. The evidence of identity is insufficient.

As to corroboration, it is a universal rule that no person ought to be convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of an accomplice, and there is no corroboration here. The Court has power to review the decision of the magistrate on this point: In re Castioni[3], per Denman, J., at p. 157, per Hawkins, J., at p. 161; In re Guerin.[4]

The committal is bad, as it includes two separate and distinct charges.

As to the question of a political offence, it cannot be contended that the explosion at the Café Véry was a political offence; but, as to the explosion at the barracks, the case is different, for the evidence shews an attempt to destroy Government property, the quarters occupied by the soldiers of the French Government. The decision in In re Castioni(1) [5]is in the prisoner's favour on this question.

CAVE, J. I am of opinion that this application for a writ of habeas corpus must be refused.

The principal ground relied on by Mr. Burnie on behalf of the prisoner is, that there was no evidence of the identity of the prisoner Meunier, who was brought up and committed at Bow Street, with the accused man Meunier, who is referred to in the depositions taken in France, to warrant the committal of the prisoner for the purpose of extradition. That is the point to which he attaches the most importance.

The second point is, that the evidence against the accused was the evidence of an accomplice, and there is no sufficient corroboration to warrant his committal.

The third point is, that there are two charges, and only one committal, and that there should be two committals.

The fourth point is, that, so far as relates to the outrage at the barracks, the offence charged is one of a political character, and therefore the accused is not liable to be surrendered under the Extradition Acts.

I will take the second point first. The question is whether the witness, on whose evidence the charges against the accused mainly depend, is corroborated by the other witnesses, whose evidence appears on the depositions taken in France.

[The learned judge here dealt with the various statements of fact relied upon by the prosecution as corroboration, and continued as follows: -]

It is impossible to deal with the point by taking separately each single fact stated, and saying it is a small matter, and does not amount to corroboration; that may be so, but the whole of the facts taken together form a strong body of circumstantial evidence in corroboration. In my judgement the fact that there is not corroborative evidence is not conclusive in favour of the accused; but the magistrate must exercise his discretion in each case in arriving at a conclusion as to whether there ought to be a committal or not. It is not the law that a prisoner must necessarily be acquitted in the absence of corroborative evidence; for the evidence must be laid before the jury in each case. No doubt, it is the practice to warn the jury that they ought not to convict unless they think that the evidence of the accomplice is corroborated; but I know of no power to withdraw the case from the jury for want of corroborative; evidence, and I know of no power to set aside a verdict of guilty on that ground.[6] The magistrate has a discretion in each ease, as to whether the evidence is or is not sufficient to justify a committal; and in the present case, in my opinion, the magistrate has exercised that discretion rightly.

The next point which I will deal with is as to the evidence of identity. It is true that no one was called to identify the man Meunier, who was brought up at Bow Street, with the Meunier referred to in the depositions taken in France. But there were many circumstances tending to shew the identity, and the prisoner was before Sir John Bridge, who had the opportunity of comparing him with the description given by the French witnesses.

[The learned judge here dealt with the evidence as to identity, and continued as follows: -]

In the face of these facts the slight discrepancy between the christian name given by the French witnesses and that in the committal order (Théodule and Théodore) sinks into nothing, and in my opinion that point also fails.

The next point is a technical one, namely, that there are two offences charged, and only one committal; but I find nothing in the statutes requiring separate committals.

The last point taken is, that, so far as regards the outrage at the barracks, the offence charged is one of a political character, and therefore the accused is not liable to be surrendered under the Extradition Acts; for it is said that the outrage was an attack on Government property, and was an attempt to destroy the quarters occupied by the troops of the French Government. It appears to me that, in order to constitute an offence of a political character, there must be two or more parties in the State, each seeking to impose the Government of their own choice on the other, and that, if the offence is committed by one side or the other in pursuance of that object, it is a political offence, otherwise not. In the present case there are not two parties in the State, each seeking to impose the Government of their own choice on the other; for the party with whom the accused is identified by the evidence, and by his own voluntary statement, namely, the party of anarchy, is the enemy of all Governments. Their efforts are directed primarily against the general body of citizens. They may, secondarily and incidentally, commit offences against some particular Government; but anarchist offences are mainly directed against private citizens. I agree, as to this question also, with the view taken by Sir John Bridge; and I am of opinion that the crime charged was not a political offence within the meaning of the Extradition Act.

For these reasons I am of opinion that the contention on behalf of the prisoner fails on all grounds, and that the application for a writ of habeas corpus must be refused.

COLLINS, J. I am of the same opinion, and on the same grounds.

Application refused.



[1] Crown Office Rules, 1886, r. 238.

[2] 33 & 34 Vict. c. 52, s. 3: "The following restrictions shall be observed with respect to the surrender of fugitive criminals: (1.) A fugitive criminal shall not be surrendered if the offence in respect of which his surrender is demanded is one of a political character."

[3] [1891] 1 Q. B. 149.

[4] 58 L. J., (M.C.) 42.

[5] [1891] 1 Q. B. 149.

[6] See Reg. v. Stubbs, Dearsley & Pearce's C.C. 555; Reg. v. Boyes, 1B & S. 311.

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