HC Deb 17 June 1880 vol 253 cc188-9

asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether his attention has been called to the case of J. A. Howard, a Magistrate for Cheshire, wherein the Justices sitting in Petty Sessions, at Sandbach, refused to hear a charge of personation at the late Mid-Cheshire Election, brought against him on the ground that no one but the Returning Officer can institute such a prosecution; and, if such be the Law, whether the Government will take steps to make an alteration therein?


Sir, my attention has been called to the ease mentioned by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) as having occurred in Cheshire, and to another similar case, in which Justices sitting in Petty Sessions have refused to hear charges of personation on the ground that the prosecutions were not instituted by the Returning Officer. The question arises under the 24th section of the Ballot Act, which provides that it shall be the duty of the Returning Officer to institute such prosecutions. I must answer my hon. Friend by saying that the determination of the Statute can easily be obtained by moving for a mandamus to compel the Justices to hear the case; and, as it is probable that that course may be taken, I think I can hardly say what, in my opinion, is the law on the subject. If, however, the Court should refuse the mandamus, on the ground that the view of the Justices is correct, that it rests with the Returning Officer to institute proceedings, it will be a matter of consideration for the Government whether such a state of law should not be amended