§ MR. STEWART MACLIVER
asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether he intends to propose any amendment in "The Newspaper Libel and Registration Act, 1881," with a view to render it necessary that the fiat of the Director of Public Prosecutions shall be obtained before any private person can commence criminal proceedings against newspaper proprietors, publishers, or editors, and also with a view to make reports of the proceedings of bodies having the administration of public funds privileged, when reporters of the press are present with the sanction of such bodies?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir HENRY JAMES),
in reply, said, he was afraid some wrong inferences might be drawn from the phraseology of the Question of his hon. Friend. It is now the law that no criminal proceeding can be taken by a private person against a newspaper writer for libel without the sanction of the Director of Public Prosecutions, except when the Divisional Court of Queen's Bench, after full investigation, gave permission in the public interests for such prosecution. Under such circumstances, he should be sorry to see the law altered. As to the publication of reports of the meetings mentioned in the Question, it had been determined that there was no privilege in cases where libellous statements had been made ex parte against an absent person. He admitted that if opportunity offered it was worthy of consideration whether the privilege should not be extended; but he was not prepared to introduce a Bill upon the subject.