, in rising to call attention to the system of Public Prosecutions in Scotland; and to move— 144That Procurators Fiscal should be prohibited from acting as factors or agents managing landed estates, and, wherever possible, from engaging in private practice as solicitors within the districts over which their Commissions extend,said, two years ago he obtained a Return of those Procurators Fiscal who devoted themselves solely to their official duties, and of those who combined private practice with their public work; and he found that in all Scotland there were only eight who confined themselves solely to their official duties, and as many as 44 who did not do so, and of those 44, 23 acted as agents in the management of landed estates. Those facts, and others which he had learned in connection with them, had convinced him of the urgent necessity of some reform, and he took that opportunity of bringing the matter forward. In England the theory of the law was that it was the duty and the right of the person damnified by crime to prosecute the criminal. The evidence against him was laid publicly before him. The prisoner was committed after public investigation. A Grand Jury had to be convinced of his guilt; and when he was tried before a petty jury there must be unanimity in order to get a conviction. The Scotch theory was perfectly different. According to that theory, it was the duty of the State to prosecute crime and punish criminals, and State officials were the proper persons to judge whether crime should be prosecuted or not. If it was considered desirable the State prosecuted at the public expense. Private prosecutions were discouraged in every possible way, and consequently they were hardly ever heard of. In order to enable the State prosecutors to prosecute in the public interest, they were intrusted with powers which to Englishmen seemed most arbitrary and inquisitorial, and which Lord Moncreiff had admitted would be intolerable to the people of Scotland were it not for the direct responsibility of the Lord Advocate, the head of the Scottish Criminal Department, to Parliament. The party suspected of crime, having been arrested, was brought before the Sheriff for examination. His examination was private; no friend or legal adviser was allowed to communicate with him. He was told that he need not answer the questions which were put to him unless he liked, and he was warned that if he did answer them his answers 145 might be used against him on his trial. But his refusal to answer questions put to him might also be used against him. When he was tried his declaration was not taken down in his own words, but written at the dictation of the Procurator Fiscal or the Sheriff, and he was asked to sign it. He was examined again and again until he was committed, which might not be until eight days after his arrest. During those eight days he might again and again be privately examined. During all that time he was not allowed to communicate with his friends or law advisers. In strict law, he believed, witnesses in criminal cases ought to be examined before the Sheriff; but, as a matter of fact, that was never done. They were examined privately by the Procurator Fiscal, who made abstracts of their evidence in his own way, and those abstracts were called precognitions. Those precognitions were submitted to the Sheriff, and on those precognitions thus taken the prisoner was committed. In the more serious cases the precognitions were forwarded to the Crown Office in Edinburgh, where the cases were considered, and directed how to be disposed of. Now, up to that point, the case against the accused was absolutely secret; and if he were discharged, an absolute secret it remained to the end of the chapter. Before the prisoner was brought to trial he was served with an indictment setting forth the charges against him, and also the articles or productions to be produced. On the other hand, he was allowed no access to the depositions of the witnesses who were to be brought against him; and if he wished to make any special defence he was required to give notice of it to the Crown some time in advance. Finally, he was tried before a jury—a bare majority of that jury sufficed for a conviction. Now, he was not going to find a word of fault with the system. On the contrary, he thought that in theory the Scotch law was infinitely better than the theory on which the English Criminal Law was based. But to many of the details of the system the strongest objection had been taken by high authorities. Lord Young, one of the most eminent of the Scottish Judges, said that it was neither right in itself, nor required in the interests of justice, that any person should be committed to 146 prison on evidence taken behind his back, not even in the presence of a magistrate; and he stigmatized it as a blot on the criminal system of Scotland. With others of his fellow-Commissioners, he declared that it was neither fair, nor in the interests of justice, to deny the prisoner access to friends until he had been examined before a magistrate. He (Dr, Cameron) was not going to find fault even with these details; and he was describing the system simply to show the extraordinary power intrusted to the hands of the Public Prosecutors in Scotland, and the absolute necessity, in order that public confidence might be retained, of intrusting those powers only to men who were absolutely above suspicion, and in. whose impartiality the public could have the most perfect confidence. The Procurator Fiscal was the sole substitute they had in Scotland for the Coroner in England. The Public Prosecutor decided whether a prosecution was to be proceeded with or abandoned; whether a minor plea was to be accepted, or the graver one insisted on. He also moved for sentence after the verdict had been, given. If a man had been killed, with the Public Prosecutor it lay whether the slaughterer should be allowed to get off scot-free—as in the case of a woman who was shot in a sale-room in Edinburgh, by a man with a loaded revolver, before the eyes of her husband, from whom he had received a letter of bitter complaint—or whether he should be tried for manslaughter. If a ploughman snared a hare, or a schoolboy wrote a threatening letter to a man who might be the Procurator Fiscal's client, with him it rested whether their cases were to be treated in the same manner as that of the slaughtered woman to which he had referred; or whether the whole powers of the country should be brought to bear for the purpose of bringing them to justice. Such being the case, the office should be fenced round with precautions, making it, at least, as much, above suspicion as were the Judges and Sheriffs of Scotland. Now, was that the case? Quite the contrary. He ventured to say that no class of officials in Scotland were regarded with as widespread suspicion as were the Procurators Fiscal, and against so many sins of omission and commission none were charged. A couple of years ago a Select Committee of the House was appointed 147 to consider a Bill which he introduced, and which had since become law. Under that Bill it was determined, in certain, cases, that prosecutions should take place before the Sheriff; and the question arose, who was to prosecute? Now, under the Scottish law the Procurator Fiscal was evidently the natural person to prosecute; but one witness after another gave evidence that if that duty were to fall on the Procurator Fiscal it would never be performed, and that it would be a dead letter; and accordingly the Committee relegated the duty to private prosecutors. Some years ago a law was passed specifying certain bankruptcy offences in Scotland as crimes, and the duty of prosecuting was naturally cast upon the Procurator Fiscal. Now, he had had scores of complaints regarding crimes under this Act, which had been publicly avowed and proved in the examinations of bankrupts before the Sheriffs; and yet, although they had been reported to the Procurator Fiscal, no proceedings had been taken. He had met with similar complaints in regard to almost every other species of crime, from manslaughter downwards. As he had mentioned manslaughter, he would illustrate that by facts contained in a letter which he received only the other day from a very intelligent medical man in Glasgow; and he produced the case the more readily, because it illustrated what was a notorious cause of inefficiency in the administration of justice in grave cases in Scotland. His correspondent was called suddenly to visit a young woman, from 16 to 17 years of age, who lay at the point of death. She survived his arrival only 20 minutes, and in the interval a medical friend was called in. Both those gentlemen thought the case was one eminently demanding inquiry, and that a post mortem was asked for. The girl had been at work only the day before. She had complained of ill-treatment at the hands of the person with whom she lived. She had taken a medicine, for which another medicine might have been substituted either by accident or design. There was no evidence whatever of the real cause of death. They reported the matter to the Procurator Fiscal, and urged the necessity of holding a post mortem examination. Some police inquiry was made, but no post mortem examination was 148 held, and this woman's death was registered by the authorities in these terms —"Cause of death not ascertained; probably natural causes; no medical attendant;" and the woman was allowed to be buried. Now, why was there no post mortem or proper inquiry held in this case? It was a notorious fact that Procurators Fiscal had the very greatest difficulty in recovering expenditure which they might make in connection with post mortem examinations. He did not know whether the Treasury was to be blamed for that, or the Crown Office in Edinburgh; but it was notorious that this parsimony offered an obstacle to the proper investigation of serious cases in Scotland, and it had been repeatedly commented on in the public Press of the country. But if one asked why, in ordinary cases, the Procurator Fiscal did not take up cases which he ought to do, one was told that in olden times it was customary to pay Procurators Fiscal by fees on convictions. It was thought that that system caused many of them to prosecute vindictively for fees, and the system was changed, and they were now paid by fixed salary. Since then, it was said, they did not give themselves more trouble than they could avoid. Now, although the suspicion of a desire to avoid trouble might attach to Procurators Fiscal who confined themselves to their official duties, as well as to those who practised privately, there could, in the case of a Procurator Fiscal who devoted himself to his official duties, be no suspicion that he neglected his official duties in order to attend to private business, or that he neglected to prosecute because the prosecution might give offence to some wealthy client; there could be no suspicion that he undertook that prosecution to please a client, or for the purpose of obtaining information to be used in his private practice. Now, it was quite otherwise with Procurators Fiscal who practised as solicitors and acted as land agents. They might be innocent or guilty; but their position caused them to be suspected by outsiders with whose interests they interfered. Especially was this the case with Procurators Fiscal who, besides private practice, also held positions as factors, and confidential agents, and advisers to landlords. They were commonly regarded by the peasantry in the Highlands as objects of dislike and 149 suspicion. Being frequently brought into collision with the tenantry in their capacity as partizans of the landlords, it was but natural that the peasantry should regard with distrust and want of confidence their impartiality in the discharge of their public duties. In fact, they had no belief in the impartiality of Procurators Fiscal who filled such manifold and frequently conflicting functions; and from the present state of popular feeling in the Highlands there was great danger, unless a proper reform was introduced in this matter, of their running the risk of impressing the minds of the population of the Highlands with the same sympathy with lawlessness and law-breakers which afflicted other parts of the Empire. And that this combination of the duties of Procurators Fiscal with the work of private practitioners gave rise to widespread suspicion and dissatisfaction there could be no doubt. In illustration, he would take first the case of the Procurator Fiscal of Aberdeen, and he selected him, the more readily as he did not personally know that gentleman in the least, and further because, judging from the fact that he was one of the best paid, he presumed he must be one of the most respectable of his class. That gentleman, in addition to being Procurator Fiscal, was also allowed to carry on private practice. He drew £800 a-year salary from the Imperial Exchequer, and he got besides £200 a-year from local funds, and he was allowed private practice as well. His first complaint regarding that gentleman was in a Memorial which had been sent to the Home Secretary in reference to an alarming outbreak of disease or illness which had occurred in connection with the milk supply distributed from, the Old Mill Reformatory dairy farm in Aberdeen; 322 persons supplied with that milk were attacked with illness, and of these three died. The inmates of the reformatory, who were said to have been supplied with the same milk, escaped without illness. An investigation was held into the matter, in the first place, by the Directors, and the Procurator Fiscal of Aberdeen acted as the private professional agent of these Directors. The result of that investigation was not made known. Then another investigation into the subject was made by the Procurator Fiscal himself in the public interest. The result of his investigation 150 was that nothing was done, and that, according to the statement of one of the sufferers, he expressed himself convinced that the occurrence of the outbreak was not connected with the milk at all, but was due to an epidemic from, other causes which had broken out amongst the wealthy classes in Aberdeen. Lastly, an investigation into the matter was ordered and held under the Public Health Act, and the same gentleman was again the professional agent for that inquiry. Well, nothing definite transpired from that investigation; but the Memorial to which he (Dr. Cameron) had referred, and which had been signed not only by 220 of the sufferers, but also endorsed by members of the leading Medical Societies in Aberdeen, pointed out that, according to the books of the Institution, the quantity of milk supplied was vastly more than that produced for such supply in the dairy, and that, therefore, adulteration must have taken place. Under these circumstances, it was most important that a prosecution for adulteration should have been instituted; but nothing of the sort had ever taken place. No wonder the Memorialists demanded another and an impartial inquiry, grounding their demand upon the very equivocal position of the Procurator Fiscal in connection with the three investigations which had taken place. The second complaint had come to him in an official letter from the Aberdeen City Parochial Board. It appeared that a convict named Brown had been discharged from Perth Prison on a ticket-of-leave. Some point having been raised regarding the man's sanity, the Inspector of Poor had him examined by five medical men, and not one of them, certified the discharged convict as insane. But the Procurator Fiscal got two medical men to certify insanity, and the man was sent to a lunatic asylum. In connection with this the Procurator Fiscal sent in a bill for £40—£12 6s. 4d. of which went into his own pocket. Now, people argued that if Brown was a dangerous lunatic, he should not have been discharged on ticket-of-leave; and the Parochial Board thought that these investigations would be more satisfactory if the Procurator Fiscal were not allowed to make money in connection with them. And the lunatics themselves did not like the business either. One man who had had the misfortune to suffer from tem- 151 porary mental derangement, which necessitated his removal for a time to a lunatic asylum, found upon returning home a hill against him by the Procurator Fiscal several times larger than what his treatment and cure in the asylum had cost; and he (Dr. Cameron) had been informed by the Chairman of the Parochial Board that the same Procurator Fiscal had, in connection with similar cases, sent in other bills to the Board amounting to some £97 in the course of less than a year. He thought he had shown that in Aberdeen a large portion of the respectable inhabitants had reasonable cause for suspicion as to the manner in which the Procurator Fiscal administered his functions. The Medical Faculty, the parochial authorities, and the solicitors had reason for dissatisfaction. As to the dissatisfaction of the solicitors, an advocate or solicitor wrote him that on the day previous he had occasion to prepare a petition in connection with a breach of an interim interdict which had been granted against a person, of whom the Procurator Fiscal was the agent. It was necessary that the formal concurrence of the Procurator Fiscal should be appended to the document, and a clerk was sent over to his office for his signature. The clerk noticed that he was detained in getting change when he was paying the small fee. On crossing the street to the Sheriff Clerk's office to present the petition and obtain an extract, he found that he had been forestalled, and that a caveat had been lodged against extracting judgment. The gentleman wrote that it appeared one of the Fiscal's partners had utilized his clerk's detention while obtaining change to be beforehand with him at the Sheriff Clerk's, thus lodging the caveat and preventing the immediate remedy which his client would have obtained. This appeared to be precisely one of those cases where there was no earthly excuse for a continuance of the present state of matters. In Glasgow, Dundee, Paisley, and other places, the necessity had been recognized of preventing Procurators Fiscal from engaging in other than their official work. In Aberdeen the Procurator Fiscal, as he had already stated, received £1,000, besides being allowed his private practice; and he had shown the results of such combination, so far as the public interest was concerned. But the evil results of such a system 152 were far worse in country districts, for there the lawyers belonged generally to one class of society, and the criminals, whom it was their duty to prosecute, belonged to another. The crimes were mostly class crimes—poaching cases, petty thefts, disturbances arising out of evictions, &c.; and the Procurators Fiscal were the land agents and friends and legal advisers of the landlords. A man had only to be appointed Fiscal to obtain such advantages over his fellow-solicitors as to secure all the outlying business. He did not say that the landed proprietors employed him because they thought it might be useful to have him on their side in case occasion should arise; but they certainly did employ him because he travelled about the country in the course of his official business, and could thus, when in the neighbourhood, attend to their private business while travelling at the public expense. If this were denied, he had received numerous complaints from country solicitors on the point, and one of them sent him a letter in which the reason for appointing the Procurator Fiscal agent to an important Highland estate in preference to his correspondent, who was also a candidate for the post, was distinctly stated to be that his official duties so frequently called him to the district. They monopolized all sorts of business. One correspondent complained that a certain Procurator Fiscal was not only a practising solicitor, member of a firm which managed a large number of estates, but clerk and treasurer to a Road Trust, secretary to a Parochial Board, assistant to an assessor in the valuation of lands, sub-collector of county assessments, and a bank agent. Another correspondent called attention to another gentleman on the list, who was not only Procurator Fiscal, practising solicitor, and land agent, but was, or had been, clerk to four school boards and secretary to a Harbour Commission. No wonder these gentlemen had often no time to attend to their official duties, and that they were often obliged to delegate the investigation of criminal matters to young clerks, and allow accused persons to lie in prison longer than was at all necessary. From a Highland county he had a complaint last year that, a couple of months previously, two cases of infanticide had occurred in the district, in one of which the body of the child had been 153 found in an ashpit; and that another case had been reported in another part of the county. He had put a Question to the Lord Advocate on the subject, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman answered nearly three months after the date of the occurrence; and from that it appeared that precognitions had not been sent in to the Crown Office till after the appearance of the Question on the Paper. The Procurator Fiscal in that case figured in the Return as a practising solicitor and a land agent. A couple of years ago, his hon. Friend the Member for Inverness (Mr. Fraser-Mackintosh) called attention to the fact that in the case of the Loch Carron evictions, which resulted in rioting, the eviction proceedings had been carried through by a gentleman who was no other than the Procurator Fiscal, who might be called upon to prosecute the rioters. Only a few months ago, he (Dr. Cameron) had had his attention called to another case, in which 41 eviction summonses had been taken out by a land agent who was also Fiscal in the district. Happily, the evictions were not carried out; and the evils of such a system did not, therefore, receive practical illustration. But the people naturally distrusted the administration of justice under such a system. Anyone who had watched the proceedings of the Royal Commission on the Highlands and Islands must have observed numerous instances of this; and he should be greatly disappointed if a recommendation that Fiscals be not allowed to act as agents for landed proprietors were not embodied among the recommendations of the Commissioners. With one case which had arisen out of the proceedings of the Commission he proposed to conclude his illustrations of the evils of the present system. General Burroughs, proprietor of the Island of Roussay, in the Orkneys, took such umbrage at the evidence given by the delegates from his tenantry before the Commission, that he point-blank refused to give any assurance to the Commissioners that no one of his tenants should be evicted in consequence of the evidence given by them before the Commission. And he was as good as his word, for he afterwards proceeded to evict two of the delegates who had given evidence. ["Oh, oh!"] He (Dr. Cameron) was not going to say anything of General Burroughs, 154 who, no doubt, had acted within his legal rights, and who had, by this mode of proceeding, unintentionally rendered great service to the cause of land reform in Scotland. But his actions were, of course, unpopular; and he received a threatening letter, of which he complained to the Procurator Fiscal, who was also his private agent. That gentleman (the Procurator Fiscal) set out in one of Her Majesty's gunboats with the Sheriff and the chief of police to the Island, and then set about the investigation of the case by examining a boy named Leonard; having before doing so obtained also a warrant for the arrest of a boy named Mainland, son of a tenant. In examining the lad Leonard, a lad of 14 years of age, son of one of the evicted tenants, according to the boy's own account, the Procurator Fiscal asked him to write, to see, he said, if the lad was a good or a bad writer. The lad wrote half-an-hour or so, and filled a page and a-half of large paper. Then the Fiscal said something about his being a good writer; but he had been so frightened that he was glad to get away. The lad said he had been asked to write some bad expressions, which he at first hesitated to do, but was too frightened to refuse. He did not know, he said, why he had been asked to write; but he had heard afterwards that General Burroughs had received a threatening letter, and that they were after him. He (Dr. Cameron) had addressed a Question to the Lord Advocate on this subject; and the explanation given by the Fiscal was that, having been satisfied himself of the lad's innocence of the crime by his precognition, he had asked him to write certain sentences from the threatening letter, in order to confirm his impression of the boy's innocence. Now, it appeared to him (Dr. Cameron) that this official explanation was most suspicious and objectionable. If the boy was suspected of guilt, why was he not examined before the Sheriff? What business was it of the Procurator to extract corroborative proof of the boy's innocence? For whose satisfaction did he do it? Was it for the satisfaction of his client, General Burroughs? Under the circumstances, one could not wonder that the peasantry of Orkney and their sympathizers all through Scotland believed that the Procurator had made a most indefensible attempt to entrap this 155 frightened boy into making a confession of guilt in the interest of his employer, General Burroughs. Now, the other boy (Mainland) was arrested in another Island, and during his passage to Kirk-wall, and prior to his examination, had been kept 20 hours without food. He was submitted to an examination of four hours' duration. He was, among other matters, asked about the proceedings that had taken place at a crofters' meeting, and—according to his own statement—what had been said there about the laird, to which he replied that he did not remember. The Fiscal, he said, thereupon got very angry, and spoke in a loud, threatening manner, striking the desk violently with his fist. He put the same question to the boy several times, to which the lad gave the same answer. Now, this was according to the statement of the boy. It might be quite untrue, just as it might be untrue that the Fiscal had urged him to answer certain questions, and said that if he did not it would be the worse for him. But he (Dr. Cameron) did say that the examination, to his mind, would have appeared much more satisfactory if the examination of the boy had been conducted with less secrecy, and by some other person than a Procurator Fiscal, the agent of a proprietor who had displayed so much vindictiveness and irascibility in connection with the case. The Procurator Fiscal of Perth received £950 per annum from the Imperial Exchequer, and £100 locally; the Procurators of Falkirk and Stirling received each £800, in addition to sums from local funds; and of 38 Procurators Fiscal also allowed to carry on practice, whose salaries were given in the Estimates, 16 drew £500 or upwards, and 28 £300 or upwards, the average of the 10 lowest in official salary being £160. £1,400 additional would raise the salary of each of these to £300, and £2,000 to £350 each, and this in addition to their receipts from local funds; and that would be a larger income than the income enjoyed by country clergymen and other professional men in the country districts in Scotland. In fact, to put this matter on a satisfactory footing in Scotland, what was wanted was not expense, but reorganization. Let the Government recast the whole system. Since the establishment of railways and the electric telegraph, it would be a very easy matter to 156 combine several small districts under one man, who might work in conjunction with a Commissioner, to deal with cases of extreme urgency. Cut down extravagant salaries where now paid, and there would be a surplus to deal with. Promote men who were the lowest paid, but who showed an aptitude for the work, to the higher posts, and that would afford a motive for activity and energy, which, unfortunately, did not now exist. Take long service into account as a claim for retiring allowances, as in the case of Judges. There would then be found no difficulty in obtaining a better class of men than were appointed at present. All this might be done, he believed, with very slight additional expense; but even if a little additional expense were required in order to remove from the administration of Criminal Law in Scotland a blemish which interfered with its efficiency, and which alienated public confidence and sympathy, still Scotland was entitled to it. Scotland was more heavily taxed in proportion to its wealth than any other division of the United Kingdom. Scotch administration cost little. There was no hankering, among Scottish Representatives, after useless subsidies. But to whatever money might be necessary to secure the administration of justice freely, impartially, and in a manner that would commend itself to the public confidence, they felt they had a right, which he believed the Central Government would be the very first to admit. He had, however, expressed his conviction that little expenditure would be required if reorganization was properly set about; and, in conclusion, he begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, he had very great pleasure in seconding the Motion. If he were to criticize the speech of his hon. Friend, he would say that by addressing himself, not to the use, but to the abuse of the Scotch system, he was afraid the hon. Gentleman had given the enemy occasion to blaspheme, as it might be thought that the whole system was bad. He entirely disagreed with that view. He though that the Scotch system was an excellent system; but it was liable to the abuses which had been pointed out. The question was a most important one, both in its relation to the administration of local affairs in Scotland and as regarded juris- 157 diction affecting a wider area. It seemed to him a very extraordinary thing that, both in the House and outside, those people who ought to know something of the British Empire were extraordinarily ignorant of the Scotch system of Criminal Law. He thought he might claim to have had a very considerable experience of criminal procedure in various parts of the world; and his experience showed that the Scotch criminal system, when not abused, was the very best system with which he was acquainted. His personal acquaintance with the system was a favourable one. In the county of Fife, where they had Procurators Fiscal who were public servants, and not engaged in private practice, the system had worked admirably; but, unfortunately, as his hon. Friend had stated, the machinery for carrying out the Scotch system had not been developed and increased in proportion to the needs of the country, and the consequence was that in some cases there was great deficiency, and in others great abuses had arisen. Under those circumstances, he thought his hon. Friend had made out a case showing there was great reason for want of confidence in many of these functionaries, who were not only public servants, but were engaged at the same time in private practice. A functionary charged with such delicate duties as a Procurator Fiscal had to deal with ought to be removed from any suspicion of partiality, and it was in order to secure this result that his hon. Friend had brought this question forward. He thought his hon. Friend was quite right in saying that it was impossible that they could longer submit to have these delicate public functions exercised by a sort of make-shift, by a functionary who was in the nature of a half-mongrel functionary or half-private practitioner. By a good system of re-organization these evils could be cured without great expense to the public purse. People in Scotland were not desirous to get more from the public purse than was absolutely necessary in the interests of justice and good order. They did not want subsidies for this, that, and the other thing that was unnecessary; but they did think they were entitled to have good justice, and those establishments necessary to secure good justice. While it was necessary 158 for the Treasury to restrain the demands; of various Departments of the public administration, they should avoid a cheese-paring policy. They should take a discriminating view of their functions, and, above all, steer clear of being pennywise and pound-foolish. This country was not so poor and over-taxed that they could not give the small sum necessary to put the administration of justice on a proper footing. Millions of money were spent on military expeditions upon the slightest pretence, to the detriment of all other outlays, however just and reasonable. He agreed with his hon. Friend that it would be possible to have a good official functionary for a district, by which a number of smaller men might be dispensed with; and it might also be possible to unite the office of Procurator Fiscal with other public offices, and thus avoid the necessity for the private practice which, as had been shown, was apt to produce a suspicion of partiality. It was quite true that Scotland was more heavily taxed than any other part of the United Kingdom. It was also true that the Returns did not show this; but the reason was that an enormous amount of taxation was from London, which was just as much the capital of Scotland as of England. England would do well to adopt the Scotch criminal system, instead of maintaining the miserable system of public prosecution supposed to be now established. If this were done Scotland would not grudge her share of the cost. With respect to commercial frauds, he was inclined to think the Scotch system at the present time was not sufficient; but if Procurators Fiscal were put on a better footing than they were, it would be found that their dealings with fraud would be more efficient than they could be now. He looked forward to the time when there would be a general Criminal Code applicable to all parts of the country.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Procurators Fiscal should be prohibited from acting as factors or agents managing landed estates, and, wherever possible, from engaging in private practice as solicitors within the districts over which their Commissions extend,"—(Dr. Cameron,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, he was very glad that his hon. Friend had brought this question forward; but he could have wished that before it was discussed the Return promised by the Lord Advocate had been laid on the Table with respect to Sheriffs and Sheriffs' Clerks, his object in moving for that Return being to show that the abuses complained of were not confined to Procurators Fiscal. He did not desire to go into the minute details of his hon. Friend; but he wished to point out to the Government that the system in Scotland of Procurators Fiscal, Sheriffs' Clerks, or other officials acting as landlords' agents was at the root of half the difficulties arising in Scotland. If this system had not existed, he did not believe the atrocious oppression that had been perpetrated in Scotland in the name of the law would have been possible. By this corrupt and rotten system the landlords were able to carry on their oppression in any manner they chose, and it was an absolute barrier to the poor obtaining justice. The poor ignorant people being served with notice of eviction by the Procurator Fiscal, as the agent of the landlord, abstained from appealing to the law for protection, not that the law would have given them much protection even if they had appealed. He could tell the Lord Advocate that there was a spirit rising in Scotland upon this subject that would not be easily quelled, and in the City of Glasgow, a few days ago, he saw a part of that spirit. It was a spirit he did not wish to see raised in Scotland or anywhere else; but if they wanted to put down that spirit, and obtain peace and prevent Communism, they must do justice. It was their injustice that was bringing about that spirit. There was not a more law-abiding people than the people of Scotland; but he believed, if they could get the evidence of the cases of oppression perpetrated by Scotch lairds on their own people, the House would be shocked, and it would exceed in atrocity and enormity almost anything that had been perpetrated in Ireland, which was certainly saying a good deal. But there was no public opinion in Scotland. The people were isolated, 160 and were thus prevented from combining for self-defence, and they had been trampled upon in consequence. He was anxious to hear the defence of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate, and what he was going to propose in a practical shape to put an end to this atrocious system; because, as he had said before, there was a spirit rising in the Island of Skye which it would be hard to suppress without bloodshed, and if there was bloodshed in Scotland the right hon. and learned Gentleman knew the consequences. He hoped the right hon. and learned Gentleman would deal with this question in a serious spirit, and do something to check this movement that was rising and increasing every day, and which might soon be a very serious embarrassment to the Government.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he thought the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) had done great good in bringing forward this subject. The Lord Advocate would be strengthened very much by this debate in carrying out the reforms which were needed. He would like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to state the facts connected with the Procurator Fiscal of Aberdeen, to whom the hon. Member for Glasgow had referred. He was an official who was highly esteemed, and in whom great confidence had been shown.
§ MR. DALRYMPLE
said, he agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Sir George Balfour) that the subject was of great importance; but the Motion did not require the kind of support which it received from the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane), who imported into the discussion a great variety of topics which really had very little to do with the subject. This was not the occasion to inveigh against the Land Laws of Scotland, nor, indeed, to refer to the excitement which prevailed in some parts of the Western Highlands, with which, possibly, the hon. Member might have had something to do. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Kincardineshire (Sir George Balfour) that the hon. Member for Glasgow had done good service in bringing this question forward, and he also agreed very much with what the Motion proposed. He thought, however, that in recent appointments there had been a stipulation that Procurators 161 Fiscal should not take private practice, and that was a step in the direction of the present Motion. He was afraid that there would be a difficulty in cases where those officials received only small salaries if they were not to be allowed to take private practice. It would also be an evil if a lower class of men were appointed to fill these offices; but even such cases might be met by the suggestion of giving a Procurator Fiscal several districts in common. The fact that the Procurator Fiscal was engaged in private practice and employed as a land agent might render his task a difficult one; but he (Mr. Dalrymple) could not admit that the result was of the kind that had been described. It had been said that a Procurator Fiscal so engaged might be too ready to proceed against persons on account of any offence; but his impression was that the result of such business relations was apt to be that crime was not proceeded against enough, rather than that it was proceeded against with too great celerity. Whatever might be the state of matters in particular districts, he was of opinion that, as far as possible, the Procurators Fiscal should devote themselves to their public duties; and he trusted that that would be the view taken by the Lord Advocate.
§ MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH
said, he thought the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow deserved credit for bringing forward this Motion. Personally, he had for many years taken a great interest in it; and in 1877, on the Sheriffs' Court Bill, he moved an Amendment in the direction of his hon. Friend's Motion. That Amendment the House divided upon in his absence; but it was, although lost, nevertheless supported by a majority of the Scottish Members. He was quite aware that it was stated on that occasion that there was difficulty in confining a Fiscal to his duties as prosecutor, owing to the expense which would be incurred in the payment of larger salaries. No doubt, some years ago a Royal Commission reported against such a proposal; but a very considerable minority on that Commission were of opinion that that circumstance should not be allowed to stand in the way of the change. As the Report of the Commission on the Highlands and Islands had been laid upon the Table of the House, although it was not yet in the hands of Members, he thought he was entitled to refer to it 162 so far as to say that the Commission which sat last year found it necessary to touch in their Report upon this particular point, and by a very large majority, indeed, they reported that Procurators Fiscal should be strictly confined to their duties. He trusted the Lord Advocate would look at this matter seriously, as the speech of the hon. Member for Buteshire (Mr. Dalrymple) showed that it was not a Party question. The time, he thought, had come when the Government must take up this question by deciding it as a whole. It was not, he thought, necessary to have a Procurator Fiscal in each county. An efficient person might be appointed to a certain district, and deserving men could have their positions improved by transfer from minor to more important districts. He thought they were entitled to call upon the Lord Advocate to give a very explicit answer as to what the Government intended to do. If they did not obtain such an answer, the hon. Member for Glasgow was bound, by a Division, to test the opinion of the Scottish Members.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that he did not altogether agree with all that had been said by the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane), and neither could he endorse some of the observations which fell from the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron). A main principle of the Motion of the hon. Member, however, was one which must commend itself to the House. It was most desirable, wherever it was possible, that Procurators should be paid entirely by salaries, and not by private practice. The question was a practical and financial one, as well as one of area; but he had doubts as to whether the proposal in the Motion could be carried out in every case, both on account of the area of the district and the salary to be given. He hoped the Lord Advocate would be able to tell them that the object they had in view, if not entirely, would to a large degree be entertained. With regard to General Burroughs, he thought it was a matter of regret that he had refused to give a promise to the Commission that he would take no steps against any tenants who came forward as witnesses. In one case that had been brought forward against General Burroughs the man was not a tenant at all, but merely the relation of a 163 tenant who had been allowed to remain on.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
There can be no doubt of the importance of the question that has been raised by this Motion; but I scarcely think it will be expected that I should traverse the earlier part of my hon. Friend's address, in which he entered into, or touched upon, some of the more general questions arising as between public and private prosecutions. We know that that is a very vexed question; but, I think, on the whole, we in Scotland prefer our own system. Of course, that system is not perfect; but the statement I have just made will have general assent. I should scarcely have thought it necessary to say this much had it not been for some language which fell from the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) in regard to that system. The system which prevails in Scotland, I believe, not only leads to the detection of crime more effectually than the system which prevails in the South, but it affords very important safeguards to the innocent. We have in Scotland prosecutions conducted by responsible public officials; and inquiries which are carried out, not by any means with the object of obtaining a conviction, right or wrong, but for the purpose of obtaining full information in the first place, and of seeking a conviction only if the responsible authorities are satisfied that the accused are really guilty. Each case is examined in a judicial spirit; and no proceedings are directed to be taken except in cases where it is believed there is guilt, and where there is a reasonable prospect of that guilt being established by evidence. Undoubtedly, a very important protection is thus thrown around persons who may have become the victims of suspicion, or of charges which prove to be unfounded. On that point I think there is great superiority in the Scotch system. I do not go into the matter of declarations, which my hon. Friend touched upon; but that does seem to me to be a very important feature of our system, because it gives an accused person, as soon as he is apprehended and put under charge, an opportunity of saying anything he chooses, but he is not compelled to speak. An opportunity is offered to him to say anything he has to say; and I well know from experience that this not infrequently results in 164 innocent persons, when they tell what is a true story, which is immediately investigated, being set at liberty. No doubt, it does sometimes happen that embarrassing admissions are made by guilty persons, or falsehoods told, which, when they come to be confronted with the evidence given at the trial, aid in their conviction; but I do not suppose anyone will think that is to the public disadvantage. In one criticism of my hon. Friend I very much sympathize—namely, that which he made in regard to prisoners not being allowed access to their solicitors or their friends during a particular stage of the inquiry. On that point I feel the force of what has been said. But, in coming to the main question raised by my hon. Friend, I think it right to say he must be under some misapprehension. Those who are not familiar with our Scotch system would greatly err if they supposed Procurators Fiscal have nearly the amount of power which he—no doubt inadvertently—led the House to suppose. A Procurator Fiscal, in what he does, acts both under the Sheriff of the county, and under the Lord Advocate and his subordinates in the Grown Office. He is amenable to both; and while it is true that some of the more trivial cases are not reported to the Crown Office, all grave cases are reported to that, where they are considered, and further proceedings or further inquiries are directed, or no proceedings ordered, as the Lord Advocate or his deputies think right. It would, therefore, be quite a mistake to imagine that a Procurator Fiscal has anything like large judgment and entire control which might have been supposed from some portions of my hon. Friend's speech. The system is well known to Scotch Members; and I do not think it is necessary to say more on that head. In regard to the more general question of principle which has been raised, I should entirely assent to the view that, wherever you can get competent and efficient men to devote their services exclusively to this or any other public duty, it is desirable that such exclusive services should be obtained; and that, I think, is the main proposition that my hon. Friend desires to have affirmed. But that must always be under conditions; and I think my hon. Friend recognizes this in one part of his Resolution, when he says that "wherever possible" they shall be re- 165 strained from engaging in private practice. This I interpret as a recognition of the fact that, without greatly higher salaries, it would be quite impossible to obtain the exclusive services of gentlemen of the class who have hitherto held the office of Procurator Fiscal. It is, however, not merely a question of money, as I shall immediately point out. Something has been said in regard to the union and the consolidation of the areas which are under the charge of different Fiscals; and if this could be accomplished, one very great difficulty would be got over. If it were possible, by placing a larger district under the authority of one man, to amalgamate offices now held separately, this would afford a means of providing an adequate salary for one good official. But anyone who is familiar with Scotland must know that that is very seldom possible. The great difficulty is that you cannot, if our system is to be effectively worked, have Procurators Fiscal located at too great distances from each other. You must have the Procurators Fiscal reasonably accessible to the inhabitants of the particular area, so that the police may report to him, and he may be able to proceed with his investigation as speedily as possible, going personally, in many cases, to the place where the crime has been committed, and also that witnesses may be brought to him for precognition. It will, therefore, be seen that there is a practical limit to the consolidation or union of areas; and it often is necessary, and, I fear, will remain necessary, to have a Procurator Fiscal at places where his official duties do not give him full employment. In many other branches of the Public Service you can work a man to the full by putting more districts under his authority; but, for the reasons I have stated, this frequently could not be done in the case of a Procurator Fiscal. There is nothing more familiar in human experience than this—that if you are to have an efficient man you must have a man in reasonably full employment. You get the best work out of the man who is worked up to nearly or altogether to his full power, and there can be no doubt that if in the area which is under the charge of a man who has not full employment in his official duties, and who is debarred from taking other work, he would de- 166 generate. His energy, his vigilance, his sagacity, his penetration—all those qualities which make a good Fiscal—would seriously suffer. So that, while I acknowledge the general principle contended for by my hon. Friend, I say that the qualification "wherever possible" should be extended to the whole of his Resolution. This matter was very fully considered by the Royal Commission which sat on the Scottish Law Courts from 1868 to 1871; and we who are familiar with it know that it was probably one of the strongest Commissions which has ever inquired into the important range of subjects submitted to it. A great deal of evidence was laid before that Commission, and most of the Members were men who had themselves had great practical experience of its working. It is only right that I should read the few lines in which they dealt with the subject now before the House, for the purpose of showing that it is not quite so easy or so plain a matter as might be thought from the speech of my hon. Friend. These lines read—With reference to the office of Procurator Fiscal, we approve of the mode in which these officials were appointed, and the conditions under which they hold office. The majority do not concur in the suggestion that Procurators Fiscal should he prohibited from private practice, and think the effect of such, a prohibition might not infrequently be to prevent the public from obtaining for this important office the services of the most suitable person. The minority, who consider that the ends of justice would be better attained if the Procurators Fiscal were debarred from private professional practice, are at the same time persuaded that this view can only be carried out by enlarging the present rates of salaries allowed to these officials, and giving them a corresponding retiring allowance.It will be seen that there was a majority of that exceedingly well-informed and influential Commission who did not see their way to laying down any such hard-and-fast rule.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
The list is a long one. I will give it to the hon. Member; but I may only mention to the House that the Members comprised many of the most eminent lawyers in England and Scotland, and gentlemen representing varied interests. The hon. Member for North 167 Lanarkshire (Sir Edward Colebrooke), the hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Orr-Ewing), the right hon. Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth), and the present Lord Provost of Edinburgh (Mr. Harrison) were Members of that Commission, which, alike from its constitution and the result of its labours, commanded the greatest respect in Scotland. To the general principle I entirely assent; and the best evidence of this, both with respect to this particular office and another office that has been referred to, is that in nearly every case of the appointment of a Sheriff Clerk with which I have had to do, a clause has been inserted in the Commission restraining the person appointed from engaging in private practice. I may point out that the appointment of Procurators Fiscal does not rest with the Government. Under the Act of 1877, Fiscals are appointed by the Sheriff, and only the approval of the Home Secretary is required. But I may add, with respect to the vacancies that have occurred since I have been in Office, that whenever the Sheriff has spoken to me before making an appointment, I have asked—"Is there such a salary as will induce a good man to accept the office, giving up other work?" In some cases such a man has been found, in others he has not; but I think the House will see that the general principle is recognized by the Government, and that as far as the conditions of the case will permit.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
I cannot speak as to that; the appointment was made before I came into Office. I think it is to be regretted that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow should have thought it necessary, in support of the general principle which he advocated, to say some things to which I cannot assent, but from which I must express a very emphatic dissent. He said, among other things, that there was no class regarded with so wide suspicion as the Procurators Fiscal in Scotland. ["Hear, hear!"] I entirely dissent from that statement. I think I have had as good means as most people—and better, perhaps, than my hon. Friend—for many years past of knowing what sort of men Procurators 168 Fiscal are, and also of ascertaining the public estimate of them; and I can say that I do not believe that there exists in Scotland, or in any other country, a body of more honourable, or more zealous public officials, or of public servants who are more efficient in the discharge of their duties. I have not only to judge of their work, but to consider any complaints that may be urged against them, either in respect of omission or of over-zeal; and the result of the inquiries made has been generally, if not almost invariably, to vindicate the Procurators Fiscal. In none of the cases which we have had occasion to investigate have we found the conduct of any one of those gentlemen deserving of censure on the ground of impropriety. There may have been errors of judgment; but I regret that my hon. Friend used the expression to which I have referred, as I am satisfied that it was not in accordance with the fact. He mentioned a number of particular cases in aid of his general argument, and he classed these under various heads. The first I understand to be cases in which he says that proceedings should have been taken and were not taken; and he mentioned a class of offences under an Act of Parliament of which he was the author which dealt with certain classes of bankruptcy frauds. In this connection he stated that there were scores of cases in which no proceedings were taken. I daresay there are scores of cases in which no proceedings are taken, because I have considered many of them myself, and have directed that proceedings should not be taken; but if my hon. Friend means to say that there have been scores of cases under that Statute in which proceedings were not taken when they ought to have been taken, then I must entirely deny the statement. Numbers of cases have been reported and sent up in due course by the Fiscals to the Crown Office and there considered by the Advocates Depute—very often by the Solicitor General and myself—and where we have thought that a case of contravention of the Act was made out, we have always directed proceedings to be taken; but many cases have been reported in which there was really no ground for proceeding under the Statute. This is, perhaps, a class of cases in which people are sometimes disappointed that proceedings are not 169 taken; because creditors are very apt to smart when they do not get their money, and a certain element of intelligible vindictiveness enters into their conduct in pressing such charges. It, there fore, becomes the duty of those who have to examine such cases to apply their judgment and knowledge of the law and of facts; and I think, if my hon. Friend had the details of these cases, he would not be able to show any case in which proceedings should have been taken and were not taken. A number of other matters were entered into by my hon. Friend, in regard to which I do not think it would be right to detain the House. The Old Mill Reformatory case was the subject of a very careful and detailed inquiry by Mr. Rutherfurd, now Sheriff-Substitute in Edinburgh, and Dr. Littlejohn. It was a very mysterious business in the end as well as in the beginning; but it certainly is not the case that the facts were not sifted. The facts were sifted in the fullest possilbe way, not only by local inquiry, but by this Commission sent down from Edinburgh, consisting of gentlemen having no sort of connection with the locality. My hon. Friend referred to another case where he said there should have been a prosecution——
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
The result of not one, but of several inquiries into this matter, failed to show that there had been any adulteration of the supply of milk. I know there was a statement sent out in a document purporting to show that from the quantity of milk sold compared with the actual yield there must have been water in it. Rival calculations were made; but the judgment of that entirely impartial tribunal was to establish that nothing of the kind had been proved. It was undoubtedly, a very mysterious disease; and it was supposed that it must have been due to some singular fungus which had got into the water used either in washing out the pails or put into the milk. But there was no evidence which would have warranted a prosecution in any Court. Something has been said in regard to the expense of certain proceedings with reference to lunatics. I have been asked a Question about the same matter before, and it 170 seemed to me then, as it does now, that the expense was very great. Some communications have taken place on that subject, and the matter is being inquired into. There are some other detailed matters that have been mentioned; but I do not think I should detain the House by going into them. While we assent to the general principle—and I think we have shown the sincerity of that assent by carrying out that principle as far as it was in our power—I am afraid that there are difficulties in the way of carrying it fully into effect which my hon. Friend may not have appreciated, but which I think, from what I have said, the House will understand. It is not necessary to occupy the time of the House by going into what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs (Sir George Campbell). He recognized the general excellence of the system, but thought it might be improved; and, of course, all of us would be glad to improve it if we could. I did regret the language employed by the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane), and it did come in very striking, as well as very sudden, contrast to the language of my hon. Friend the Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs; because while my hon. Friend the Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs spoke with approbation of the criminal system of Scotland generally, the hon. Member for Carlow thought fit to characterize it as "corrupt and rotten." I am glad that language was not used by a Scotch Member. I am quite sure it would not be endorsed by any Scotch Member; and I think I may say the same of a good deal of the other language which the hon. Member for Carlow thought fit to employ. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kincardineshire (Sir George Balfour) put some questions in regard to some particular accounts. I have not all the details of these accounts. The head he referred to contains a great variety of expenses. There are still a few Fiscals who are paid by fees. Most of them are paid by salary, but there are still a few who are paid by fees; and these, with other charges, are entered under the general head to which my hon. and gallant Friend refers. I may point out, before sitting down, that while this matter has been, and will be, kept in view in future appointments, it would, 171 of course, be impossible, without very large compensation, to alter the tenure of those who took office under the system which now prevails. It has been always regarded—and I think rightly regarded —as of paramount importance to get the services of the very best men for this class of work—men who will command —as I believe they do command—the confidence of the country as a whole. Many of them have been engaged in private practice before and since their appointment; and it is quite plain that the tenure of their office could not be altered after they had accepted it without seeing that full justice was done to them. I hope my hon. Friend will be satisfied with what I have said, and will see that the matter has not been overlooked, and will not be overlooked.
considered the statement of the Lord Advocate entirely unsatisfactory. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had distinctly admitted that it would be desirable, if possible, to have Procurators Fiscal devoting all their time to the duties of the office; but he had gone on to point out various objections, which resolved themselves into this—that it would cost more. He (Mr. Dick-Peddie) thought that in a matter of so great importance to Scotland a few hundred, or even a few thousand pounds should not be allowed to stand in the way of a change which was necessary to secure public confidence in the administration of justice. The Lord Advocate had also contended that it would be necessary, in some parts of the country where the population was scanty, to maintain the present system. But those were the very districts in which it was necessary for the Procurators Fiscal to be free from every kind of entanglement with local interests; for in the large towns, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, the chances were that the Procurators would not be interested in the cases brought to their notice otherwise than from their official position, whereas in the country districts the probability was that the reverse would be the case. As to the salary to be paid to officials of this class, he thought the hon. Member for Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) took too low an estimate of the amount when he spoke of £300 or £350. He thought that men having the necessary qualifications for the post, with regard alike to 172 legal knowledge, high character, and experience of life, would not be properly remunerated at that rate. The question was one which the Treasury must face. It was monstrous that in a country which contributed so much as Scotland did to the Imperial Exchequer a matter of a few thousand pounds should be allowed to stand in the way of a more efficient method of administering justice. He thought that in a discussion of this kind, turning, after all, upon a question of money, they ought to be favoured with the presence of a Representative of the Treasury. He observed the Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney) looked in a short time ago; but apparently he just came into the House to go out. Certainly he was not here more than five minutes. The Lord Advocate confessed that the difficulty was one of money; and he knew perfectly well that there was a strong feeling in Scotland that until this money difficulty was got over, and Procurators Fiscal were made entirely independent of other influences of every kind, the poorer classes in Scotland would never be sure of receiving justice. Although he was far from joining in saying anything against the Procurators Fiscal generally—for he knew the great majority of them were men who were above suspicion—still, the system exposed them to temptations which ought not to exist. No system ought to be maintained in public life which did so expose them. He did not wish to prolong the discussion; but rose merely to tell the Lord Advocate that he must not suppose that his statement would satisfy the Scotch people, or that the Scotch Members would allow the matter to rest until the Government faced the financial difficulty.
§ MR. J. W. BARCLAY
said, he thought the Scotch Members had great reason to be dissatisfied with the action of the Government in this matter, especially as no Representative of the Treasury had been present. He was much disappointed by the speech of the Lord Advocate, for the right hon. and learned Gentleman defended the system to a large extent. In his opinion, the system of appointing public prosecutors who were also engaged in private business was altogether indefensible. He was not prepared to say that in very many cases 173 serious harm to justice arose; but certainly, where the Procurator Fiscal was engaged in a large private business, he often found himself in a position in which no man should be placed; and though he might not give way to the temptations to which he was exposed, yet he was open—and necessarily open—to suspicion in many cases. He assured the Lord Advocate that there was a very strong feeling of dissatisfaction in Scotland; and he hoped the Scotch Members would take a Division on the subject as a protest against the present system, and against the manner in which Scotland was being treated by the Government and the Treasury officials. The Lord Advocate had admitted that the question was a question of money, and the proper Treasury official ought to have been present to hear the views of the Scotch Members on the subject.
§ MR. M'LAGAN
said, there could be no doubt that it would be for the advantage of the public that Procurators Fiscal should have no private practice, but that they should be paid sufficient to enable them to perform the public business without any extraneous support. At the same time, he dissented from a great deal that had been said as to the position of the Procurators Fiscal of the country. There was not a more capable body of men, so far as he was acquainted with them. They discharged their duties most impartially, and in their hands the administration of justice was perfectly safe. He could not, however, conceal the fact that their conducting private practice, and having landed proprietors and others as their clients, exposed them to suspicion which they did not deserve. It would, therefore, be for the advantage of the public that they should be paid from public funds, and have no private practice whatever. The speech of the Lord Advocate seemed to him to have been somewhat misrepresented. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he defended the Motion theoretically; but that, under present circumstances, he did not see his way to yield to the proposals made by the hon. Member for Glasgow. Still, he agreed with those hon. Members who had stated that this question seemed to have been shunted, and not treated as it ought to have been by the Government. Certainly, some Member of the Treasury ought to have been present to give his 174 views on the subject, seeing that this was more a financial question than anything else. If a Division were taken he should support the Motion of the hon. Member for Glasgow, for this reason—that he thought Procurators Fiscal should be paid by salary and have no private practice.
§ SIR ALEXANDER GORDON
said, he hoped that before they went to a Division the House would know clearly what they were to divide upon. There was an apparent contradiction between, the Motion of the hon. Member for Glasgow and the speech in which he introduced it. In his Motion he proposed that the change he suggested should be made wherever practicable—in other words, he admitted that there were cases in which it was impossible. The Lord Advocate had, moreover, shown that he was anxious to adopt the principle wherever it was possible. Therefore, on that point, the Government and the hon. Member were agreed. He thought the hon. Member had fixed the salary too low in placing it at £350 a-year. They were now obtaining the services of some men to whom they paid £800 to £1,000 a-year, some of them being the most influential and able men they could obtain; and he thought the scale of remuneration suggested by the hon. Member was much too low. The hon. Member had also said that he did not object to Procurators engaging in private business outside the area in which they were officially employed; but the only private business a man could undertake would necessarily be in that area. He thought that if the House were asked to divide on the Motion as it was worded, it would be placed in a very awkward position.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 35: Majority 17.—(Div. List, No. 63.)
§ Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," again proposed.