asked the Lord Advocate, with reference to the Glendale crofters arrested in Glasgow on Friday, Whether the private parties at whose instance they were arrested communicated with the Crown authorities before taking them into custody; whether the prison authorities at Edinburgh, to which city they were conveyed, refused to accept their custody; whether they were thereupon lodged in the Ship Hotel, Edinburgh, and confined there for several days in charge of the messenger at arms who apprehended them; and, under what Law it is competent thus privately to confine prisoners, civil or criminal, for days together, in a city containing a public prison?
§ MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
asked the Lord Advocate, What steps Government intend to take in consequence of the apprehension, on their journey to Edinburgh, of three Glendale crofters, in their beds in Glasgow, at six o'clock in the morning of Friday 16th February, in face of the promise (accepted by the special Government Commissioner to Skye) of these crofters to attend before the Supreme Court of Scotland?
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
In answer to the Question of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), I have to say that the agents for the petitioners in the petition and complaint for breach of interdict, in a letter addressed to the Crown Agent on 15th February, stated that they observed from the newspapers that three of the 406 crofters against whom warrants were issued were on their way to Edinburgh, and requested to know if the Crown authorities would have them in charge and bring them before the First Division of the Court on Tuesday next—that is, to-day—adding that they would have the petition and complaint in the roll on that morning. To this letter a reply was sent, stating that they—the petitioners' agents—held the warrant of the Court of Session, which, if it required to be executed, should be executed by officers at their instance, and on their employment, not by the criminal authorities, and that it was for them—the petitioners' agents—to judge whether there was any necessity to execute the warrant, as the men had intimated that they would appear voluntarily at the bar. I understand it to be the fact that the prison authorities in Edinburgh refused to undertake the custody of the men, as the warrant contained no mention of incarceration, and also that the men thereafter were in the Ship Hotel under the charge of the messenger-at-arms, who apprehended them. I infer that the men were thus detained in transit to the Court, because it was not sitting last week. As the detention was not at the instance of the Crown authorities, and as the men are in the hands of competent advisers, I do not feel called upon to offer any opinion as to its legality. With reference to the Question of the hon. Member for the Inverness Burghs (Mr. Mackintosh), the Government do not intend to take any steps in consequence of the apprehension of the crofters, which was at the instance of private parties, under a warrant granted to them by the Supreme Court. My information does not bear out, but on the contrary negatives, the suggestion in the latter part of this Question, that anything passed with the gentleman there mentioned expressing or implying that upon the crofters coming from Skye, as they did, the warrant referred to would not be executed.