HC Deb 01 April 1881 vol 260 cc465-7

asked Mr. Attorney General, If he can state what prosecutions he has instituted or intends to institute against persons reported to have been guilty of corrupt practices by the Commissioners appointed to inquire into corrupt practices at the last general election?


in reply, said, he had considered the desirability of instituting legal proceedings upon the Reports of seven of the Bribery Commissions. In the case of Knaresborough it was not suggested that any prosecutions should be instituted. In the cases of Canterbury and Chester, although the Reports were silent on the subject, the Commissioners had reported officially to the Secretary of State for the Home Department and himself that they purposed granting certificates of indemnity to all persons whom they had examined; and as all who were implicated in corrupt practices were examined, everybody was protected from prosecution. In the case of Gloucester, the Commissioners stated that certificates had been, or would be, granted to all, except one or two, who, however, could not be prosecuted. The Boston Commissioners reported that corrupt practices had been committed by certain persons whom they had refused to examine, and, as the evidence appeared sufficient to support a prosecution, proceedings had been instituted against them and also against four persons for perjury. The Macclesfield Commission had reported that two persons, whom they had not examined, had been guilty of corrupt practices, and proceedings would be taken against both. In the case of Sandwich, nine persons were scheduled as guilty of corrupt practices and unprotected by certificates; but the Commissioners had since intimated that two of them, Mr. Wylie and Mr. Ginnell, had been placed in the schedule by mistake, and it was intended to give them certificates of indemnity. The evidence against the other seven persons was under consideration, with a view to taking proceedings against such of them as the evidence would justify. Perhaps the House would allow him to give an explanation with reference to a statement that all the persons ordered to be prosecuted in the Boston case entertained one particular political opinion. On reading the evidence he thought that was the fact; but he hoped he might be allowed to explain that the question who should be prosecuted must be governed by the Report of the Commissioners. To the names given by the Commissioners he could not add one, nor had taken one away. He had, practically, but little discretion in the matter, and he was sure the House would believe that the question of the political views of any individual had not in the smallest degree influenced him.


inquired what course it was proposed to take with regard to those gentlemen who were scheduled as guilty of corrupt practices, and who happened to be justices of the peace?


asked what course would be taken in the case of aldermen and town councillors reported as having been guilty of bribery?


in reply, said, that the question, so far as it affected justices of the peace, was peculiarly within the province of the Lord Chancellor, who had already, in the case of two Commissions, had the names of justices of the peace brought before him, and after reading the evidence affecting them, his Lordship thought it right to call upon them to show cause why their names should not be moved from the commission of the peace. As far as he knew, it was the intention of the Lord Chancellor to adopt the same course with regard to every scheduled justice of the peace. With regard to aldermen and town councillors, they wore an elected body, and the only way of dealing with members of that body who were scheduled as guilty of corrupt practices was by special legislation.


In the event of aldermen or town councillors acting as justices of the peace by virtue of their office, will the Lord Chancellor have power to prevent them so doing?


in reply, said, he thought that the only case of the kind would be a mayor, who acted as a magistrate for his term of office, and ex officio for one year after; and if it should turn out that such a person was scheduled, he would call the attention of the Lord Chancellor to the case; but he doubted his power to interfere in such cases.