HC Deb 24 May 1886 vol 305 cc1821-2
DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

asked the Secretary to the Treasury, Whether the attention of the Postmaster General has been called to the following statements made by witnesses examined by Sheriff Ivory, and published by that gentleman in a pamphlet entitled "A Report by the Sheriff of Inverness, Nairn, and Elgin to the Commissioners of Supply of Invernessshire:"— Deputy Chief Constable Aitchison: 'When he (Captain Mahon) came he sent for the Inspector and myself, and we met him then and on several occasions afterwards. On these occasions he showed us various telegrams, for some of which he applied to Sheriff Spens for authority to show us, but he had also shown several to us before he got such authority; 'A day or two afterwards he came to us with a bundle of telegrams.…. I think he showed us these telegrams on this second occasion; 'Captain Mahon showed us (Inspector Macdonald Gillander and me) another telegram on a third occasion.…. I asked Captain Mahon to allow me to get a copy of these telegrams. He wired for leave to the secretary at Edinburgh, and he showed me the reply, telling him not to show the telegrams to anyone. I then told him he must show them privately to the Chief Constable at Inverness and to the Sheriff in Edinburgh, and he said he would do so;' Deputy Procurator Fiscal Gillander: 'Captain Mahon showed me a telegram. He showed me a batch of twenty or thirty telegrams, all or most in different handwriting, one from the Postmaster, Portree, and the others from the crofters and their friends.' whether Captain Mahon is "a person having official duties connected with the Post Office;" and, if so, whether he is forbidden by the Electric Telegraph Act, 1868, Section 20, to disclose or in any way make known the contents of telegrams, except under certain conditions prescribed in the Act; whether in any, and, if so, in how many, of the instances quoted Captain Mahon had obtained the authority prescribed by Law for the production of the telegrams; and, if their production was made without legal authority, what steps the Postmaster General proposes to take for the vindication of the provisions made by Law for the secrecy of telegrams and the punishment of Post Office officials who disclose their contents or those who induce such officials to make such disclosure?


In producing these telegrams, without the necessary legal authority for so doing, Mr. Mahon, who is an Assistant Surveyor of the Post Office, acted under a mistaken sense of his duty. He believed that in showing the telegrams to the police he was not only not contravening the law, but furthering the ends of justice. Mr. Mahon has been informed that he was in no way authorized to disclose the telegrams in question; but the Postmaster General is advised that in the circumstances it would not be proper to institute proceedings against him under the Telegraph Acts.


said, that on the Civil Service Vote for the Telegraphs he would call attention to that matter.