HC Deb 05 June 1888 vol 326 cc1176-7
MR. SINCLAIR (&c.) Falkirk,

asked Mr. Solicitor General for Ireland, Whether it is the custom that when a Presbyterian desires to swear by the uplifted hand, in accordance with his legal rights, he is almost invariably asked in the Irish Courts of Law—"Do you believe that form of oath is binding on your conscience;" whether such a question is asked in virtue of any statutable requirement; and, if so, can he indicate where this statutable requirement is to be found; and, whether, as this inquiry is looked upon as an insult by many of those to whom it is asked, he will consider how best to put a stop to this or similar questions being asked in future?


As the result of the inquiries which I have made into this matter, I have ascertained that a diversity of practice exists in the mode of administering an oath under the circumstances mentioned by the hon. Member. Some Judges consider themselves bound to put the question referred to, having regard to the terms of the statute, which enacts that in all cases in which an oath has been administered to any person— Such person is bound by the oath administered, provided the same shall have been administered in such form and with such ceremonies as such person may declare to be binding. This, however, is not the view taken by all tribunals; and any witness who may object to being asked the question is entitled to have the matter decided by the Judge as a question of law. In reply to the third paragraph of the Question, I have to say that the matter is one which must be left to the decision of each individual tribunal.


Arising out of the answer of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I have further to ask him if he would consider the subject of legislation in this matter, whereby it would not be necessary for the future to ask questions of this kind, which are considered as insults by those to whom they are put?


I shall be very happy to consider the subject; but I must say that the putting of the question can hardly, in fairness, be considered anything of an insult, inasmuch as, whenever it is put, the Judge acts under the belief that he is bound to do so by the terms of an Act of Parliament. I have always understood that that Act was introduced into Parliament by a Member of the Irish Bar, who was himself a Presbyterian, in the year 1838.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

Is not the real question whether the persons to whom the question is addressed consider it an insult?

[No reply.]