A Daring Escape from Green Street Courthouse, 1904

Ruth Cannon BL barrister Illustrated Police News Hale Escape from Green Street 1904
Hale’s battle with the police in Mount Street, as depicted in the Illustrated Police News, February 1904

From the Dublin Daily Express, 6 February 1904:



A good deal of sensation was caused in the Courthouse, Green Street, yesterday afternoon, when it became known that a prisoner named Samuel Hale, who had been put back for sentence in connection with the receiving of goods taken from a house in Wicklow street, had made good his escape from the cell in which he had been confined.  The case in which Hale was involved had been heard in the morning, and although he was not convicted of burglary the jury had little difficulty in finding him guilty of receiving the stolen goods. 

Towards the close of the day’s business, he was called forward to receive sentence from the Lord Chief Baron, but at this point Mr Bushe, who was prosecuting for the Crown, announced that in the meantime Hale had escaped by removing one of the bars in the opening of the cell.  An immediate examination of the precincts of the Court was made, but no trace of the missing man could be found.  The theory got ground that Hale had, after getting through the opening, scaled the wall into the Halston street entrance to the Court, and at once a large number of police were told off to prosecute a search for him in the city. 

At the hearing of the case the Lord Chief Baron consulted the record of the man, which showed several terms of imprisonment, and by a peculiar coincidence the fact that about twenty years ago he succeeded in breaking out of Kilmainham Prison, and remaining at large for some time. Since 1891, it would appear, he has carried on the business of a marine store dealer at Liberty lane.  When found guilty yesterday he appealed for mercy on the ground that he had been instrumental in giving information to the police regarding the burglary.  The search was vigorously continued last night but up to the present Hale has not been recaptured.”

An update on Hale’s subsequent progress is to be found in the New Ross Standard of 12 February 1904, which states that

“The ingenuity and daring of the convict Samuel Hale in his escape from the cells in Green-Street Courthouse on Friday were fully equalled by his desperate fight for liberty on Sunday night, when for nearly two hours he successfully resisted the efforts of a large number of police to recapture him.  In the evening the Detective Department at the Castle received information that Hale was concealed in a house in Lower Mount-street, which has been vacant for some weeks past since the death of the recent occupant, Mrs Cassidy. Two officers examined the house and having satisfied themselves that it was occupied by some person, sought for reinforcements so as to have all exits from the house guarded. 

Between nine and ten o’clock six men of the G Division visited the house with the determination of capturing the wily convict and bringing him to the Bridewell.  They reckoned without their host, for when two of them, having first placed two others on guard at each entrance, endeavoured to enter the house they met with anything but a friendly reception from the occupant.  Detective-officer Love was the first to enter, and as he approached Hale, the latter, who was standing in a dark corner, struck him with a poker on the head, and inflicted injuries for which the officer had to be treated in hospital.  Detective officer Bruton who accompanied him, was also assaulted.  This put a stop for a while to the attempt at capturing the convict, and Detective-officer Love was taken to St Patrick Dun’s Hospital, where his wound was dressed.  The wound was not sufficiently serious to necessitate his detention in hospital.

After the assault, when the attention was temporarily withdrawn from the house, the fugitive made his escape at the rear, and passing through the gardens got onto the roof a house in Powers’ court, a row of small houses which runs at the back and parallel to the large residences of lower Mount Street.  Running at right angles to those two rows of house at the southern end is another row of low houses in Warrington-place, and Hale, who had taken off his boots, ran along the roofs of those two rows of houses, and evaded all the efforts of the police to capture him.  Reinforcements arrived from Lad Lane and other stations, and policemen were stationed at every place where there was any possibility of escape. 

By this time a large crowd of people had gathered, and the subsequent efforts of the police to capture the criminal caused great excitement.  Whenever a policeman attempted to approach him, Hale threw slates, bricks and tiles at him, and several of the policemen were fortunate in escaping serious injuries.  Detective-officer Bruton was struck on the head with a slate.  Happily, he got the blow full in the side of the head with the flat part of the slate.  Superintended Laracy and Inspect Lanktree with one or two other inspectors, and a large force of policemen, had arrived about half past eleven.

There was now no danger that the convict would escape, but the difficulty of capturing him was not overcome until a ladder was procured and a number of policemen closed with him on the roof.  He fought desperately with slates, which he tore off the roof of the house, but a couple of blank cartridges discharged by a policeman on the street rightened him, and the police, taking advantage of the confusion, closed in on him and soon had him bound captive.  They brought him out through a house on the corner of Lower Mount street, and followed by a large crowd, took him to Lad lane police station, where he was charged with the assut on Detective officer Love.”

There have been other escapes from the cells in Green Street Courthouse over the years, including that of James ‘Mortar’ Monaghan in the 1970s, following an explosion in the building, in what the Evening Herald of 21 November 2007 described as ‘an incident more suited to a South American banana republic.’ Few, however, have been followed by such exciting recaptures.

The diminutive Hale, descripted by the Dublin Evening Mail as looking ‘remarkably well after his recent escapade,’ subsequently appeared before the Dublin Police Court to plead guilty to the charges arising from his escape in a cheerful tone of voice. 

Hale must not have received a stiff sentence, because in April 1905 he was back in the Southern Police Court being fined £1 for having hawked goods for sale without a dealer’s licence.  In December 1906, he was charged at the Ulster Winter Assizes with having received clothing stolen from Belfast Workhouse and sentenced to five years penal servitude.  In June 1918 Hale, now described as ‘an elderly man residing at 4 Waterford street, Dublin’ was yet again sentenced to five years penal servitude for receiving pencils and cord the property of Messrs Eason and Son and 100 sacks of manure belonging to the Dublin and Wicklow Manure Company, knowing them to have been stolen. 

The above sentences would have done for a lesser man, but not, it seems, for Hale, who survived to witness – and even be a casualty in – the Irish War of Independence.   On 24 June 1921 the Evening Herald reported that, during an attack on a military lorry at the corner of Dorset Street and North Frederick Street, an elderly gentleman, Samuel Hale, of 4 Waterford Street, had received a bullet wound in the left ankle.  Mr Hale’s injury, which was not serious, was treated in Froedman’s pharmacy, North Frederick Street, and he was later removed to the Mater Hospital in the Corporation ambulance.  

He could no doubt have taught those attacking the lorry quite a bit about guerrilla warfare!

Author: Ruth Cannon BL

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

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