§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
asked Mr. Attorney General, Whether, at the present Middlesex Sessions, Mr. Fletcher presiding, a person named Mears, summoned as juror, having stated that he was without religious belief, the learned Judge directed him to be sworn, saying that he had, during the past year, had so many cases of persons declaring that they were persons without religious belief that he had directed them all to be sworn; and, whether, in view of the decision of the Court of Appeal in the case of the "Attorney General v. Bradlaugh," and the possible serious consequence of a conviction being reversed for error in fact, the error being that the jury have not been duly sworn, he will take any action in the matter?
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
I have communicated with Mr. Fletcher, the Chairman of the Middlesex Sessions, and from information received from him the facts are not quite correctly stated in the Question of the hon. Member, It appears that up to the present time the number of persons making objection that they had no religious belief has been so small that the Court has been able to dispense with their service as jurors. Mr. Mears did, however, raise the objection mentioned; but the Chairman did not direct him to be sworn, but told him that, in his (the Chairman's) opinion it was competent for him to take the affirmation prescribed by Section 8 of the Statute 30 & 31 Vict. c. 35. Upon this 209 Mr. Mears made no further objection. Mr. Fletcher informs me that when persons have come before him and have persisted in their objection, he has never directed them to be sworn or make affirmation, but has dispensed with their services as jurors. I think it right to say that I do not agree with the view of the Statute taken by the learned Chairman, but, under the circumstances, it is clearly not a case in which I can interfere.