HC Deb 02 March 1886 vol 302 cc1753-4

asked the Secretary for Scotland, Whether his attention has been called to the case of William Melrose, at Selkirk; whether he is aware that the Tweed Fisheries Acts give the Sheriff power to infer intent to commit an offence by fishing with an illegal implement even though no illegal implement is found on the accused; whether he is aware that the same Acts, which are private Acts, give the right of searching any one who may be on the banks of the river to men in the employment of a body of country gentlemen, whose only qualification to sit on that body is that they possess a Salmon Fishing; and that the fines which are levied in public courts, by the sentence of Her Majesty's Judicial Officers, are handed over to these gentlemen to be used in paying these water bailiffs of theirs; and, whether he is prepared to legislate for the amendment of this system?


My attention has been called to the case of William Melrose. Law and justice is the only important part of Scottish affairs which is not under the control of the Secretary for Scotland; and I have not the responsibility of revising sentences. The sentence was inflicted under Section 69 of the Tweed Act of 1857, which section the Special Commissioners appointed to inquire into the working of the Tweed Acts recommended should be repealed, for the best of reasons. The general state of things on the Tweed is described by my hon. Friend in the longest clause of his Question with remarkable force and precision. Under Section 81 of the Act of 1857 the fines inflicted go, among other purposes, to the payment of the water bailiffs. The Tweed Acts are condemned by the public opinion of almost all classes of the population of the district. I am making careful inquiries as to the course to be proposed with regard to them.