HC Deb 17 May 1878 vol 240 c157

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether Mr. R. A. Benson, who is reported in to-day's "Standard" as having addressed a Conservative meeting at, Reading yesterday, is the same person as the Metropoliton Police Magistrate of that name; and, whether it is consistent with the quasi-judicial office which Mr. Benson holds, that he should attend public meetings and take an active part in political discussions during an election contest?


Sir, in reply to the Question of the hon. Member, I have to say that I have no means of knowing whether Mr. Benson, the magistrate, is the person who is supposed to have made the speech referred to, nor have I any information that such a speech was made. I communicated, however, with Mr. Benson, on seeing this Question on the Paper. Unfortunately he is not in town at the present moment, and, therefore, I have not yet received from him any reply. I may say, with regard to the other portion of the hon. Member's Question, that the only legal disabilities by statute imposed upon a police magistrate are, in the first place, that he cannot be a Member of Parliament; and, in the second place, under an old statute, that he could not vote within the Metropolitan Police District in which he was engaged. That restriction on his Parliamentary franchise was repealed in 1874. How far a person holding the position of a police magistrate is to consider himself disfranchised or disentitled to interfere in political affairs in any part of the country other than that in which he is acting is a matter of discretion. Everything must depend on the way in which he uses the liberty which the law allows him.