§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
There is a matter in connection with this Vote to which I desire to call the attention of the House, especially with regard to the action of the Government who, first of all refused to allow the payment, and then, without any change in the circumstances, authorized it to be made. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord Advocate, in assenting to this course on the part of the Government, referred with something like bitterness of feeling to the action taken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron) in regard to this matter, and the leading organ of the Government in Scotland—the Scotsman—also took up the subject matter. Alluding to the speech made by the Lord Advocate upon the subject the Scotsman says—The Lord Advocate in replying to Dr. Cameron told him pretty flatly, that if he said outside what he had said inside that Chamber, he would have been open to an action for defamation. It is not a very manly or straightforward proceeding for a Member of the House of Commons to shelter himself under the privilege that his Membership confers to slander an honest public official. There was gross lawlessness in Skye. Dr. Cameron and some others were giving their approval to the men who were guilty of that lawlessness, and when it was checked by the firm action of Sheriff Ivory they turned their anger upon him…A more dastardly and mean proceeding was never witnessed.When attacks of that kind are adopted by the Government after having been made by the organs of the Government, it need hardly be wondered at if debates on the subject dealt with are entered 59 upon by the Scotch Members with considerable earnestness. I may here say that I do not call in question the statement of the facts of the case made by Sheriff Ivory. I will assume that every statement of fact he has made is correct; and, further, I will not add to the facts which he himself has introduced. The case I have to bring forward is one which has been characterized, by most unconstitutional action on the part of Sheriff Ivory, and has led to a good deal of discussion both at public meetings and in the Press throughout Scotland. There can be no question as to the illegality of the course adopted by Sheriff Ivory, the result being that the parties who felt themselves aggrieved adopted the Constitutional course of bringing his conduct before the tribunals of the country by actions against him for damages. The law has, as we all know, provided the greatest possible protection for what is done by any Scotch official in the discharge of his duty, and this, of course, fully covers anything legally done in the discharge of the duty of a Sheriff or Judge; and I venture to say that no more prudent advice could be given in a question such as this than to throw aside anything in the nature of bickering or agitation, and to have the question of the legality of the Sheriff's proceedings made the subject of discussion in a Court of Law. In this case there were two action for damages founded on the alleged illegal action on the part of the Sheriff. One of these, brought by a person named Beaton, was successfully defended by the Sheriff, who succeeded in traversing the suit by a plea of privilege; but in the other action, which was brought by a person named Norman Stewart, the Sheriff, finding it prudent to compromise the matter, did so by paying £5 damages, and the expenses, amounting to £200, which payment has now been sanctioned by the Treasury. Now, I wish to ask, is the Treasury prepared to aver that the Sheriff in this case had not acted outside his duty and functions? My own opinion is that the position of the Crown in this matter is very clear. When they were asked to defend the action brought against Sheriff Ivory they said—I am to inform you that the Crown cannot undertake your defence in this civil suit, such a suit would not he relevant unless the pursuer 60 can aver that you, as a sheriff, in ordering his arrest had either gone outside the law in some flagrant manner in matter of procedure, or had, though within the law in procedure, acted maliciously and without probable cause. The Lord Advocate has no doubt that you will be able to defend yourself against either of these charges, and, if so, you will gain your case and be found entitled to expenses. It would be matter for consideration whether, if the expenses so awarded proved irrecoverable from the pursuer, the Treasury should not reimburse you; but it would not be regular for the Crown to take up your defence or in any way to guarantee your costs at present.That is the course that was then adopted and it amounted to this—You, as sheriff, if your action has been regular, will succeed in defending the case, and if you are unable to recover the costs you are put to from the pursuer, the Crown will pay.But the action brought by Norman Stewart was on account of the Sheriff having published a confidential report or letter from the Lord Advocate, which contained a serious reflection on one of the parties to proceedings then pending, that party being spoken of as a "Ringleader of the mob." The right hon Gentleman opposite now represents the case as simply one of the mode of publication, and says that it would have been competent to the sheriff to have published that report in some other manner. In all such actions for damages the same thing might be said; it could always be said that the defender might have gained the end sought by some legal and Constitutional method. But I assume that in the action against the sheriff, that official adopted an illegal and un-Constitutional course whereby he subjected himself to the consequences, and I ask whether, when a legal and constitutional course was open to him, the Crown and the country are to pay for the consequences of his having adopted an illegal and unconstitutional one? Is this money to be paid to a Sheriff who knows the law, or who gets a large salary for being supposed to know the law he administers, and yet who acted without excuse in adopting a course that was neither legal nor constitutional? This is not the case of a Government subordinate having by a technical misconstruction of the law done that which amounts to a breach of the law; it is the case of one who is in the position of a judge, and who, therefore, ought to know what the law is. It has also been stated by the right hon. Gentleman op- 61 posite that the document I have referred to as improperly published by the Sheriff might have been laid on the Table of the House by the Home Secretary. But this House naturally expects that the Home Secretary will act like a man possessing something like prudence and common sense, and I venture to say that, looking at the character of the document, no Home Secretary would ever have laid it on the Table of the House. But beyond this, we have the fact before us that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), who was then Home Secretary, refused to lay the document on the Table, and it is, therefore, no argument to say that he might have done so. It is also said that the document might have been sent to the Commissioners of Supply and there seems to be some doubt as to whether it was or was not so sent. The Lord Advocate seems to imply that it was not; though I understand that it was. But just look at the facts. This man Norman Stuart was under the charge of having been the ringleader of a mob, and this charge was pending against him at the time Sheriff Ivory caused the statement to be published in the newspapers that he was the ringleader of the mob; and, that being so, and the charge being one that was pending in Sheriff Ivory's own Court, the man being acquitted in March, the right hon. Gentleman now argues that the Sheriff might have published the report in April—which was after the trial had taken place and the man had been acquitted. Our case is, however, that Sheriff Ivory, knowing the charge was pending against the man, goes and publishes a report stating that he was the ringleader of the mob. Did the right hon. Gentleman ever see a grosser piece of irregularity than that? I venture to say that the Judge who did an act of that kind, who published that which he was not entitled to make public, ought not to receive approval at the hands of any Government. But that is not all the illegality complained of. Sheriff Ivory told the Lord Advocate he would not have the case tried summarily, but that he would send it to the High Court of Justiciary. Surely that was an unwarrantable interference with the course of justice. We know that if a Highland case is sent for trial at Edinburgh, the accused person is deprived 62 of his proper means of defence and is most likely to be convicted, for he cannot afford to bring his witnesses all that distance. I think that Sheriff Ivory showed he was persecuting this man when he thus interfered in the province of the Lord Advocate, and suggested that the case should go for trial to the High Court. Still that is not all the illegality I complain of. The Sheriff in his judicial capacity sees the precognition of certain witnesses, and now the Crown refuse to allow him leave to plead these precognitions in his defence of the action brought against him. But what does he do? He publishes details of these private documents and he accuses the man of deliberate perjury. But there is still worse behind. When the case came before the Sheriff Substitute, and the man had a verdict of not guilty returned in his favour, Sheriff Ivory wrote to the Judge and asked him how in the world he came to let the man off? Was there ever a grosser or more lawless proceeding? What was the answer of the Sheriff Substitute? It was that the Crown witnesses' evidence did not come up to the precognitions. Yet this is not all. Certain charges were made against Sheriff Ivory in the newspapers. Now, if a Judge is slandered in a public newspaper there is a constitutional way open to him to defend himself, but Sheriff Ivory, instead of adopting that course, rushed into print, and published the contents of private documents. Certainly, he claimed that he had the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan-shire, in so doing, but the right hon. Gentleman has stated that he gave no such authority whatever, and if we refer to the Minute of the Lords of the Treasury on the subject it will be found that the Sheriff had no ground whatever for his belief. Mr. Balfour certainly wrote that he was confident that Sheriff Ivory acted in a bonâ fide, though mistaken, belief that his Lordship had approved the publication; and the Lords of the Treasury express an opinion that the publication of the documents without the express official sanction of the Lord Advocate was an act of imprudence on the part of the Sheriff. But even assuming, for the moment, that the Lord Advocate had sanctioned the publication, this House has a perfect 63 right to object if any official of the Government sanctions a lawless course. Now, let me point out that Sheriff Ivory published these documents while legal proceedings were pending against the man. He was an accused party, yet the Sheriff published a Report denouncing him as the leading ringleader of a mob, and he thereby did that which was calculated to prejudice this man in his trial, which was about to take place before a Criminal Court. The result of the trial was a verdict of not guilty; it was proved that Norman Stewart, instead of doing an illegal act, did his best to turn the mob back, and prevent them molesting the officers of the law. I am surprised that any hon. Member on the Government Benches should stand up for one moment and defend the conduct of Sheriff Ivory in trying, first, to influence the Lord Advocate to change the venue of the trial to Edinburgh, in making public charges against the man before the trial was held, in making use of precognitions to formulate a charge of perjury against another person, although he documents were private ones, and were only in his possession in his official capacity, in denouncing the accused before his trial as the leading ringleader of a mob, and finally, in calling on the Sheriff Substitute to give any explanation for his acquittal of the man. It is quite true that the Government in a matter of this kind will be able to outvote Scotch opinion. There is no doubt that numbers of Members who never even take the trouble to sit and listen to Scotch debates will be found to come when the division bell rings in and outvote the Scotch Members; but can the Government wonder that there should be a feeling arising in Scotland in favour of Home Rule when Scotch business is treated in this way? It is easy to vote down the Scotch Members, but it will not be found so easy to beat down the voice of the constituencies in Scotland, and I warn the Government that they need not be surprised to find Scottish opinion going against them. You wonder why it is that Scotch opinion is Liberal instead of Conservative; the explanation is that, whenever Scotch Questions arise in this House, Scotch Members are promptly outvoted by English Representatives.
MR. W. A. HUNTER (Aberdeen)
I think that the whole of this discussion has shown the great inconvenience which arises in Scotland from the combination in the same individual of the functions of a police officer with those of a judge. That I consider to be the mischief of the whole matter. In this particular case the Chief Constable of Inverness was perfectly willing to do the police work, but so enamoured was Sheriff Ivory of his executive functions that he preferred to carry it out himself. I trust the Government will give their attention to this matter, and endeavour to make some arrangement by which, while the executive functions of the Sheriff may be retained to some extent, the police work shall be performed by the Chief Constable. Now, Sir, there have been two cases brought before the House. In that of Beaton I fully admit that the Government have made out a primâ facie case, though I think it has been rebutted and destroyed; but, with regard to the case of Norman Stewart, no possible justification has been found for the action of a person who happens to be a judicial officer having of his own motion gratuitously published a libel in an ordinary newspaper upon a private individual. I think he ought to be made to pay the costs which he incurred in his own defence in this matter. Now, what are the facts of Beaton's case? I remember them very well. Some few years ago the disturbances out of which this case arose took place in the form of what is called deforcement of the Sheriff; in other words, 30 or 40 stalwart Highlanders stood in the road and invited the Sheriff to return home without serving his writs. That was no doubt an illegal act, and shortly afterwards a number of warrants were issued for the arrest of parties who were supposed to be implicated in the deforcement of the Sheriff. But considerable difficulty was experienced in serving those warrants and affecting arrests, and finally, Sheriff Ivory had to get up a man-hunting expedition. He took a large police force with him, he concocted a plan of campaign of his own, he had scouts in various parts of the district, he surrounded the village about which his attack was to be directed, he searched above and below the beds with warrant and 65 without warrant, and he did not find the persons whom he was seeking. The expedition proved a failure. We know that, in whatever form of sport mankind indulges, the sportsman never likes to go home with an empty bag. Neither did Sheriff Ivory. So, as he was going home, he happened to spy a shepherd on the hills. He ordered a constable to fetch the man, and when the poor fellow was brought to him he was found to be half-witted. He bad not been named by any person as having taken part in the deforcement of the Sheriff; nevertheless Sheriff Ivory, rather than go home with an empty bag, arrested this man on his own responsibility, conveyed him into Portree, and, after keeping him in custody a day or two, was obliged to dismiss him. Now this was the most absolutely gratuitous and unfounded arrest which it was possible for any man to make. I will tell the Government frankly why it is that the conduct of Sheriff Ivory exeites such bitter indignation amongst the Scotch Members; it is that the Sheriff would not have dared to arrest Beaton if he had been a rich man; but because he was a poor man with no friends Sheriff Ivory arrested him, as his expedition had failed. It so happens, Sir, that a public subscription was got up in this case, to enable Beaton to bring an action against the Sheriff for wrongful imprisonment. I have no hesitation in saying that if that action had been tried in England exemplary damages would have been awarded. But, so far as I can gather from the judgment of the Court of Session, the law of Scotland differs from that of England, for the Court of Session held that the Sheriff, acting as a police officer, had the same privileges as if he was acting as Sheriff. If that be the law of Scotland, and for my purpose I must assume it is so, the conduct of the Government comes to be a very serious matter, because, although Beaton could not get a remedy in the Court of Session, the very least the Government might have done when a wanton abuse of power of this character had been perpetrated, or at all events when an absolutely groundless arrest had been made, would have been to leave Sheriff Ivory to suffer the natural and probable consequences of his action, namely, to pay the costs of the action which he was not able to recover. It 66 comes to this, that it does not matter how unfounded, how irrational, how unreasonable, how improbable are the grounds upon which a police officer in Scotland acts, if he is sued the Government will pay his expenses. And now, the second case, that of Norman Stewart, is of an entirely different character. When the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. P. B. Robertson) spoke the other night, he said that the Government were bound to defend officials in the due performance of their duties. If this had been an act performed by Sheriff Ivory in the due performance of his duty, no one would have raised any question either as to the amount allowed Sheriff Ivory or as to the principle involved. What are the facts of the case? Sheriff Ivory prepared a report for the then Lord Advocate in regard to the then state of the country. In that report he made a statement with reference to Norman Stewart. It is impossible for anyone to read that report without perceiving that the remark which Sheriff Ivory thought fit to make about Norman Stewart was not only unfounded, but wholly irrelevant to the statement made to the Lord Advocate. The defence set up the other night by the present Lord Advocate was most amazing; it was that by gratuitously publishing this document in the Scotsman newspaper, Sheriff Ivory exposed himself to an action for libel, although there were two other ways in which he might have published the document. As Sheriff Ivory had been so generous as to expose himself to the full brunt of an action for libel, the Lord Advocate thought it was only proper that the Government should save him from the consequences. It was said that Sheriff Ivory could have published the document through the Home Secretary. The Home Secretary might have published it as a Parliamentary Paper, but Sheriff Ivory could not have done so. Then it was said he might have published the document through the instrumentality of the Commissioners of Supply. He might by adopting the latter means have escaped responsibility, but the newspaper which published the statement would not have escaped responsibility. This libel was not only wanton and gratuitous, but monstrous. It was published by Sheriff Ivory in defiance 67 of the fact that the gentleman accused had been acquitted by the Sheriff Substitute himself. Is it possible to justify the conduct of the Government in paying the costs of Sheriff Ivory in a private libel suit? It is perfectly true that the publication referred to acts which Sheriff Ivory had performed as a public officer, but that is no justification for shielding him in his private libels. There is one point in regard to which I cannot help thinking misconception has prevailed in the minds of the Government officials who are responsible for the expenditure of this money. At the end of 1887 the former Lord Advocate (Mr. Macdonald) wrote a memorandum, and in it he recommended the Government not to pay the money which had been expended in respect to this libel suit. But the ground upon which the former Lord Advocate justified that view was an erroneous ground. The ground the right hon. and learned Gentleman took was that Sheriff Ivory had published this official document without the approval of his official superior. That may or may not have been the case, but it had nothing to do with Sheriff Ivory, in his private capacity, publishing a libel. When Sheriff Ivory published an official document in the Scotsman he committed an offence. In the first place, he committed an offence against Stewart, because he libelled him; and, in the second place, he committed an offence against discipline. I will not go at length into the question of the recollection of Sheriff Ivory with regard to this matter, but it is a very remarkable fact that Sheriff Ivory comes as near giving the Lord Advocate the lie direct as it is possible. He says, in his report, that immediately the publication took place the then Lord Advocate, the present Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour), distinctly informed the House that the publication had taken place without his knowledge. Sheriff Ivory challenged the statement, but not until two years had elapsed. If the Bill which has been proposed by the Attorney General (Sir R. Webster) had been at the time law, it is just possible that Sheriff Ivory might have been committed for misdememeanour; but whether he acted without the authority of the Lord Advocate or not is wholly immaterial. No authority from the Lord Advocate could justify 68 Sheriff Ivory in publishing a libel about a private individual, and that was the offence of which he was found guilty. The case, therefore, is one of the simplest and strongest character. Here is a man who published to the world an official document of a confidential character, without the authority of his official superior. In that document he made statements wholly unnecessary for the purposes for which the document was written, statements affecting the personal character of a private individual. Besides which, the statements were wholly false, and the Government steps in and pays the man's expenses because he happens to be a Judge. It is monstrous that Sheriff Ivory should be allowed to act as a chartered libertine, so to speak; and under the circumstances, I trust the hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division will go to a division.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. G. J. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
The hon. Member for the St. Rollox Division (Mr. Caldwell) complained of the absence of a great many English Members while he was speaking. I think he might also have complained of the absence of Scotch Members who usually sit on the front Opposition Bench. I missed the ex-Lord Advocate (Mr. J. B. Balfour), under whose auspices Sheriff Ivory was employed, and who had got a good deal to say upon this question. Now, the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter), will not expect me to follow him into the very intricate questions of Scotch law which he has raised. I will not do so, neither will I follow him into the question whether an English jury would have acquitted Beaton had they had to deal with his case. [MR. HUNTER: Would have given him damages for wrongful imprisonment.] As the hon. Member spoke of the views of Scotch Judges on this question, I should like to put the view of Scotch Judges in regard to Sheriff Ivory's conduct before the Committee. It is not only Members of successive Governments who have dealt with this question, but a Scotch tribunal not only dismissed the case against Sheriff Ivory on behalf of Beaton, but uttered some very strong and significant words on the subject. These discussions on Sheriff Ivory date back a very long time. The case has 69 been brought up over and over again, and it is very remarkable, that while both in the Press and in the House, the moat violent charges are continually being made against Sheriff Ivory, affecting not only his judicial but his moral character, the moment Sheriff Ivory calls someone a ringleader in a riot hon Members opposite rise up and assert that he has committed the greatest sin and the greatest imprudence. [HON. MEMBERS: "He paid damages."] These actions against Sheriff Ivory are part of a Plan of Campaign announced in advance. Let me remind hon. Members that it is not during the lifetime of the present Government that these transactions in regard to which this action was brought occurred. They took place under the benignant rule of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) and his friends, and if Sheriff Ivory is accused of brutalities and indecencies—I think these were the words used by the hon. Member for the College Division—
The indecencies and brutalities I referred to were committed in connection with the expedition conducted by Sheriff Ivory under the present Government.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
The persecution of Sheriff Ivory began before the advent of the present Government. It was determined to ruin him, and the hon. Member for the College Division, speaking of the course which had been adopted, said:—Now all this was grossly illegal…Assaults and entering houses without warrants were criminal offences, but, if they were only criminal offences, they should obtain as little redress as they did, in the telegram business; but the harrying of dying men, the frightening of ailing women into swoons, and the striking of boys with sticks were happily offences for which the civil as well as the criminal law afforded redress.Those words Sheriff Ivory might perhaps consider malicions. The moment Sheriff Ivory took any action which exposed him in the slightest degree to attack, the hon. Member announced that he was prepared to subscribe in order to punish him. The action of Norman Stewart was simply part of a general campaign against Sheriff Ivory. Sheriff Ivory had described Norman Stewart as a ring-leader—as taking part in a lawless proceeding. Norman Stewart was acquitted of the charge made against 70 him. Two years afterwards Norman Stewart brought an action and laid his damages at £1,000, but Sheriff Ivory paid £25 into Court, and the action was allowed to drop. The £1,000 was a bogus claim, £25 being considered sufficient compensation for the wrong Norman Stewart had suffered. Now, concerning the case of Beaton, this is what the hon. Member (Dr. Cameron) said—He (Beaton) went to a lawyer, and wanted to raise an action for wrongous imprisonment, but was told he had better not. By all means let him raise an action, and by all means let him carry it from Court to Court; aye, up to the House of Lords. For such work cash was needed. But such a method was the only way in which they could vindicate directly the course of law and order in the Highlands; and so important did he consider the adoption of such a course in the interests of the Highlanders at the present moment, that he would rather give £100 towards a fighting fund than subscribe £5 to the support of the prisoners or their dependents.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I have no doubt the funds so generously subscribed were used for that purpose. It was thus that this action for libel was brought two years after the publication on which the libel was based; two years the alleged libel had been before the world and no one took the slightest step until the Fighting Fund of the hon. Member was raised. The Lord Ordinary, a man in whom I presume Scotchmen have confidence, said, in regard to Beaton's case—The Sheriff in this case evinced firmness and resolution, and if he had not done so he would not have done his duty. If the Chief Magistrate of a county responsible for its peace were to be liable to an action of damages for what he did in the bonâ fide execution of his duty, the result would he that his powers to quash tumult and insurrection would be altogether paralyzed.Dismissing the case, on appeal, the Lord President said:—There is a very special protection surrounding the defender in the execution of his duty as Sheriff of the County, and responsible for the peace of the County; and that protection, I think, extends to this, that he will not be liable for anything that he does in the performance of that duty, unless it can be shown that he was actuated by a malicious motive of some kind, and the mere use of the word malice in a case of this description, I think, is quite insufficient to fulfil the condition upon which alone such an action can be entertained. The presumption in favour of a public officer, that he is doing no more than his duty, and doing it honestly and 71 bona fide, is a very strong one, and certainly ought not to be overcome by a simple use of the word 'malice' It is for the benefit of the public, it is for the interests of justice and good Government, that public officers acting in the execution of their duty should be surrounded by a very considerable protection. The cries brought out in this third article of the Condescendence, I need hardly say, are not such as to warrant any inference of malicious motive, and therefore, in that respect, I conceive the Record to be irrelevent.Sheriff Ivory was not only acquitted in the case of Beaton, but acquitted with compliments. I now come to the details of the second case, the case of Norman Srewart, which is more especially before the House, because it is in respect of this case that the payment of expenses is to be sanctioned. Sheriff Ivory published a Report which he had made, and the only point in the Report to which exception was taken before the Court was that he had called Norman Stewart a ringleader in a riot. Stewart suffered no damage thereby; indeed, the only motive there could be in bringing the action for libel was to carry out the intention announced when the fighting fund of the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow was formed. It was a bogus action for libel, and the Sheriff only failed to make a good defence owing to a technical point. He was unable to bring forward his proofs, as has been shown by the hon. Gentleman opposite. The Sheriff paid £25 into Court in satisfaction of damages of £1,000 which had been claimed, and the action was allowed to drop. It must be patent to everyone that there was no question whatever of real injury done by the alleged libel; but that it was a question how far Sheriff Ivory should be mulcted and punished, on the ground of a technical offence, for subsequent conduct which was displeasing to a certain Party in this House. The whole object now is to obtain the assent and sanction of the House to the views of hon. Members opposite as against Sheriff Ivory. It is the conduct of Sheriff Ivory that is really at stake. A question has been raised as to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan (Mr. J. B. Balfour). It was asked in the first part of the discussion what he had really said as to the payment of these expenses. Well, this is what he said— 72I consider that the conduct of Sheriff Ivory throughout the Crofter troubles was such as to entitle him to the favourable consideration of the Treasury in the matter of costs incurred in Stewart's case.I call the attention of the hon. Gentleman opposite to these words by his own Lord Advocate.
As a point of order, Mr. Courtney, I asked the Secretary to the Treasury the other day to produce that letter, and he would not. As the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has quoted the letter, should he not—
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Certainly. My hon. Friend the other night had not got the letter—which was marked "private and confidential"—with him. We now have the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan to make the letter public, as it shows how the misunderstanding may have arisen between himself and Sheriff Ivory.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
March the 20th, 1888. It says—(1) I have no doubt whatever that Sheriff Ivory sent the report to the newspapers for publication is bonâ fide, and that he is speaking truly when he says that he believed he had my authority for doing so, although he is mistaken in this.This is testimony that, at least, Sheriff Ivory was acting bonâ fide, and I accept the evidence of the right hon. Gentleman to that effect, as against the malicious suggestions which have been made that he was not so acting. Sheriff Ivory's action may be called imprudent, but, at any rate, it cannot be suggested that the Sheriff did not act honestly. The letter goes on to say—The only conversation which I could in 1885 or can now recollect having had with him, in which reference was made to the publication of official Reports, related to his transmitting copies of such Reports to the Police Committee of the Commissioners of Supply of the County of Inverness. He had been feeling acutely certain unfounded charges which had been made against him.and I may here assure the House that it is not only hon. Gentlemen opposite who feel the charges brought against 73 them. It is often forgotten that officials of the Government can feel as keenly as other people, and that some little share of sympathy is due to them in their difficulties even when brought on by imprudence. It is not pleasant to be vehemently and incessantly accused, as Sheriff Ivory has been, without any opportunity of reply, and it is not surprising that, when such is the case, an official should be betrayed into somewhat hasty action. The letter continues—In certain newspapers, and he was desirous that these should be contradicted by the official Report from Skye being made public. I deprecated such publication, and he said something as to the Police Committee (and the Commissioners of Supply) being entitled to see the Report relative to the action of their own police, and I assented to this view that they were so entitled. In the course of the conversation I remember that he spoke of Reports which so numerous a body as the Commissioners of Supply were entitled to see becoming virtually public, and the only surmise I can make is that he had interpreted an assent to the view that the Police Committee were entitled to have the Reports relative to their police, even though this might lead to their becoming public through the Commissioners of Supply, as an assent to the direct publication of the Report in the newspapers.That is precisely the version of the matter given by my right hon. Friend the Lord Advocate the other day, showing how the misunderstanding arose. I now come to the second part of the letter—
§ "(2) I consider that the conduct of Sheriff Ivory throughout the Crofter troubles was such as to entitle him to the favourable consideration of the Treasury in the matter of the costs incurred in Stewart's case. The duties which he had to discharge were of the most difficult, delicate, and anxious character; and I may refer to the opinion expressed by Mr. Arthur Balfour on the 16th of February, 1887 (when Secretary for Scotland), as to the manner in which he (Sheriff Ivory) had discharged these duties ("Hansard," vol. 310, page 1,696), and to my concurrence in what Mr. Arthur Balfour said (page 1,705).
§ "Hoping that the Treasury may decide to relieve Sheriff Ivory of the costs in question,
§ "I remain, my dear Sir, yours very truly,
§ "J. B. BALFOUR."
§ Therefore it seems that the late Lord Advocate, under whom Sheriff Ivory served, knowing the whole affair and having had all the circumstances brought before him, thought it right to recommend his case to the favourable consideration of the Treasury. I do not wish for one moment to put the case 74 before the House solely on the recommendation of the late Lord Advocate but I think hon. Gentlemen opposite will be glad to know that, at all events, in the course we are taking we have the concurrence of the Lord Advocate under whom Sheriff Ivory served. There has seldom been a more violent attack made upon any public officer than has been made upon Sheriff Ivory. The way in which his conduct has been viewed, not by his present judicial superiors only, but by the late Government, is patent from what I have read to the House, and the Committee will agree with me, I think, that we owe something to public officers who discharge difficult and delicate duties. These gentlemen should receive the support of their official superiors; and, under these circumstances, we do not think that the Plan of Campaign of the Member for the College Division of Glasgow will succeed, the object of which is to punish Sheriff Ivory pecuniarily for the way in which he has discharged his public duties.
§ *SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
The right hon Gentleman who has just sat down seems to me, to a certain extent, to have forgotten the character in which he appears here during the discussion of the Estimates. He appears here as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he maintains the position with great ability; and we are here in the character of private Members and custodians of the public money. We attend to the Estimates for the purpose of discussing them without passion. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of this being a question of passion from first to last; he has spoken of the violence of the strife that has raged round Sheriff Ivory, but it seems to me that he himself has contributed to that strife in no small degree. He speaks of motives having all along been imputed to Sheriff Ivory. Well, I certainly am not going to impute any motives to Sheriff ivory, but I must observe that the right hon. Gentleman himself imputed motives very freely across the House.
§ *SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
Yes; the right hon. Gentleman read it out, but he afterwards repeated it in his own words when he said that the object of the present action was to punish Sheriff for his conduct in the Highlands. I, however, say that the motive of our 75 action to-night is to protest against that which we believe to be a proposed misapplication of public money. I pass over, without remark, the case of John Beaton. I do not think it necessary to enter into the case, as I believe this vote may be taken solely and simply on the case of Norman Stewart. Now, what is the case against Sheriff Ivory as against Norman Stewart? It is that he published an official Report which he was not justified in publishing—a Report which contained a very serious statement which, before an important Court, was proved in evidence to be an incorrect statement. That is the simple case. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has used a great many words, but he has refrained from reading any of the vital points from the Memorandum before the House, and certainly he has refrained from reading the passage which appears to me absolutely to settle this question in the course of twelve lines. The Dean of Faculty, speaking on behalf of Sheriff Ivory, said the statement made by his client in a Report to the Lord Advocate was that Norman Stewart was the ringleader of a certain mob. Nothing can be more simple than that. The statement, he said, was made by the Sheriff on information contained in an official document transmitted to him by the Crown authorities, and Sheriff Ivory had no reason to doubt the correctness of the document, and accordingly repeated the statement which it contained; but he subsequently found that the facts did not justify the statement, and, consequently, he made a tender which was now before their Lordships. "I understand," said the Dean of Faculty. "that the tender has been accepted, and your Lordships are now at liberty to grant a decree on the terms of the tender or to dismiss the action as the other side may ask." Now, what had occurred to bring this about? Why, it had been shown before the Sheriff's Substitute that Sheriff Ivory's description of Norman Stewart in his Report to the Lord Advocate was entirely erroneous. It was proved to the satisfaction of the judge that Norman Stewart had not taken that course which Sheriff Ivory had attributed to him. That was the first branch of the grievance under which Mr. Norman Stewart was suffering, and it was the first branch of the malfeasance of Sheriff Ivory. 76 That, I conclude, is undenied. The other point is whether Sheriff Ivory was justified in publishing an official paper. I listened very carefully to the letter of the late Lord Advocate the Member for Clackmannan, and I do not gather that he goes back from his original opinion that he gave no authority whatever to Sheriff Ivory for the publication of the Report. But he does make a sort of half-expressed plea for mercy for Sheriff Ivory; and I am bound to say—speaking as a Member of Parliament responsible for the disposal of the public money—that there is no ground for that appeal whatever, and we have no right to listen to it. This case was decided previously, not on ad misericordiam grounds, but on official grounds, in accordance with the precedents of the Treasury. It was decided, after consulting the late Lord Advocate, Mr. Macdonald, and the opinion expressed by that Lord Advocate—who was exactly as much the Lord Advocate of the present Government as the Member for Clackmannan was the Lord Advocate of the late Government—was that he was able to recommend that the costs of the action of Beaton should be refunded to Sheriff Ivory in full, but that the case of Stewart presented much greater difficulty. He said that under the circumstances he could not recommend that these costs should be paid, and the Treasury decided not to pay. After that, by the great powers of importunity which Sheriff Ivory possessed, an appeal was again made to the Treasury. Sheriff Ivory thought he had at last got a high official who was sure to take his view of the facts. He appealed from the officials of the Treasury and from Lord Advocate Macdonald to the present Chief Secretary for Ireland, who, he declared, looked at things not in detail, who looked not to the points of the case, but who looked broadly to see whether a public official was acting on one side or the other, and who "was intimately acquainted with the work I had to do in Skye." Hon. Members know what the views of the Chief Secretary for Ireland are with regard to the agrarian difficulties in the Highlands, and also that when the Crofters' Bill was before the House of Commons the Chief Secretary for Ireland opposed it on the ground that, though there might be grievances about 77 rent in Ireland, there were in Scotland no landlords who over-rented their tenants. That was the opinion of the Chief Secretary for Ireland then, and it may be now; but the opinion of the Land Commission, which has gone deeper into the matter than the Chief Secretary for Ireland, has come to a different conclusion, for while the reductions on rents have been largely in excess of Irish reductions, the reductions in arrears has been frequently double the reductions in rents. It was while the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary for Scotland that Sheriff Ivory appealed to him against the judgment of Lord Advocate Macdonald, and, above all, against the judgment of the Court of Justice in Scotland.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
When my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland was Secretary for Scotland I do not believe this concession had been made. The whole point raised by the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely chimerical to the last degree.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I have made no statement except that Sheriff Ivory appealed to the present Chief Secretary for Ireland. What I look to is the conduct of Sheriff Ivory when he finds himself face to face with Members of Parliament trying to do their duty as Members of Parliament. I will read some passages from Sheriff Ivory's most recent Memorandum—The enemies of law and order will, no doubt, rejoice that the Government should have changed their views and censured me as they have done. But I venture to predict that the law-abiding public will be of a different opinion when they learn the true state of the facts, If executive officers, after doing their best to discharge their duties honestly and fearlessly, are to be treated in this manner, no Government can expect them to act in the future with the necessary promptitude and decision…I think I have some reason to complain that my claim for repayment of the expenses of a lawsuit prompted by political animosity should in the circumstances have been referred for decision to the Law Officer of the Crown as if it depended on a technical question of law—to one, too, whose conduct in regard to this very case had been so much complained of by me in my printed Memorandum. Had it been referred to Mr. A. J. Balfour, who was intimately acquainted with the work I had to do in Skye, who knew the danger of allowing false and unfounded statements regarding the conduct of a Government expedition to remain unanswered, and who would have dealt with the matter in a broad and statesmanlike manner, I should have been perfectly satisfied.78 The question is whether an individual did act in an unbecoming and riotous manner towards the expedition to which Sheriff Ivory referred. Sheriff Ivory says he did; but he was proved not to have acted in that manner, and Sheriff Ivory was himself obliged to acknowledge that it was so, and then he appealed to the Chief Secretary for Ireland against "false and unfounded statements." I have thrown no passion into this question, and have attributed no motive to Sheriff Ivory. I blame him for one thing only, and that is for the indecorous statements in the last Memorandum he has sent, a Memorandum upon which, I am sorry to say, the Government has made a concession which it ought never to have made, and has reversed its previous opinion—an opinion founded upon reasons which I believe it is absolutely impossible to answer except by high-sounding generalities.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer is satisfied that to night, at all events, he has had a patient hearing from the Scotch Members. I venture to think that the complaint with which he began his speech on this subject was somewhat disingenuous. We all know that he is a master of debate, and no one admires his debating powers more than I do; but his chief weapon is his remarkable power of repartee, and it seems to His that he rather courts interruption than otherwise. At all events, the Scotch Members tonight, after his complaint on that score, abstained from interfering with him, and I think the result was that he sat down somewhat crestfallen, because he had lost his usual opportunity. The right hon. Gentleman, it seems to me, has confused the issues on this question, or has tried to do so. The case is a very simple one, but the right hon. Gentleman has repeated in the House the misrepresentation that is being made outside—I mean the misrepresentation that this controversy is a mere incident in a personal feud between Sheriff Ivory and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the College Division of Glasgow. I wish to say for myself that I, for one, know nothing whatever of that feud. I know next to nothing of Sheriff Ivory himself, and my judgment on the matter is based 79 entirely on the materials laid before the House. I decline to go into the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this is all the result of a "Plan of Campaign"—of a conspiracy to promote bogus actions, and to punish, by vindictive damages, an official who had deserved well of his country. I think we must go back to simple facts, and, if I may be allowed to say so, to the only defence that has yet been made—namely, that submitted the other night by the Lord Advocate. I assume that we are dealing entirely with the case of Norman Stewart. The fact is that Sheriff Ivory libelled one of Her Majesty's subjects, and that he was sued in an ordinary action for libel on that account. He made no defence—he pleaded guilty; he was cast in damages, and now the Government ask us to pay his bill of costs. Only two reasons have been assigned, that I can see, why we should pay the bill of costs of Sheriff Ivory. One is that the delinquent is a Judge, and that it was his business to enforce the law. Well, we have all known cases in which ignorance of the law has been set up as a good moral, if not a good legal, excuse; but I have never before known of a case in which knowledge of the law was put forth in defence of a delinquent in such a position. Another reason was assigned, that these might have been Parliamentary Papers, and, if they had been, the Sheriff would have run no risk of prosecution. But the privilege, in such a case, would have been the privilege of Parliament, not of Sheriff Ivory—not of the person making these slanderous communications. The privilege of Parliament is based on great Constitutional reasons; but they have no application to a case in which a judicial officer goes beyond his duties and breaks the law he is bound to administer, and libels a subject of the Crown. I can see nothing in these reasons to justify the position the Government have taken up. Let me mention, also, this is not an ordinary case of litigation. There is a curious relationship between the parties in this little drama. The solicitor who ran up this bill of costs to an amount that seems to be beyond all precedent was not an ordinary solicitor, but the eon of Sheriff Ivory, and one may admire 80 the filial piety of this pious Eneas iu running up a bill to an amount no ordinary Attorney would have reached, because in his view the Government were bound to pay it. I think the whole circumstances of the case show that instead of it being a bogus action, Sheriff Ivory had to defend it as a bogus claim made upon Her Majesty's Government. The claim was condemned by the Law Officers as one that ought not to have been submitted, and, if I am within the limits of Parliamentary propriety in using the term, it is a piece of colossal impudence on the part of Her Majesty's Government in submitting this demand to the House.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I must say a few words on this case, because the publication of these documents took place, as I am reminded on looking at the dates, when I was the official superior of Sheriff Ivory. I do not wish to say much about that Gentleman. The Sheriff used to address a great many letters to me very much in the tone of that published on page 15 of the correspondence; and if Sheriff Ivory treated his inferiors as he did his superiors I was very sorry for them. The claim made by him in the case before us has been refused by the late Lord Advocate and the Treasury authorities, who said that the Bill ought not to be paid. What did Sheriff Ivory do thereupon? He set to work and abused the Government of the day', telling them that they did not deserve to have such an admirable Sheriff, and that if they did not support him all sorts of terrible things would happen to them, and the enemies of law and order would triumph. The Sheriff said, "I do not care for the Lord Advocate or the Treasury. Give me A. J. Balfour." The idea of Sheriff Ivory was that if he only raised the cry of "the enemies of law and order" he would see the Chancellor of the Exchequer overruling the Lord Advocate and the Treasury, and paying his bill. Accordingly we have the Chancellor of the Exchequer imploring, and even threatening the Committee, and bullying the Scotch Members in this matter, in order that he may waste £200 of the public money which the Treasury has refused to pay. That is the political situation of the Government. If you only whisper into the ear of the Chancellor of the Exchequer "the enemies of 81 law and order" he will come down and spend £200, or £200,000, or even £200,000,000, and defend it in the passionate way he has done this evening. It is a very bad thing to allow the Government to be bullied in the way they have been by Sheriff Ivory. I do not know what I should have done if I had had "Mr. A. J. Balfour" for a colleague. Perhaps I should have been like the present Home Secretary, whose subordinate sent letters to "Mr. A. J. Balfour" for publication in the Times.That was the way the Home Office is carried on. The Home Secretary is a cipher in his own office. Sheriff Ivory did not look to the Lord Advocate nor to the Treasury, but to "Mr. A. J. Balfour," and then the Chancellor of the Exchequer implores the House of Commons to waste the money of the country in the way now proposed. I cannot vote for the payment of this money. Sheriff Ivory incurred the penalty by doing a grossly improper official act, for which he deserved to be rebuked and punished; and at the present time these acts on the part of subordinate officials are encouraged so long as they raise the cry of "the enemies of law and order." What is being done now all round the Civil Service? Look at the state of things at the Home Office! The Home Secretary is not recognised; he is a cipher. We find Mr. Anderson handing over confidential Home Office documents without the leave of the Home Secretary, and then "Mr. A. J. Balfour" insists upon the right hon. Gentleman coming down and saying that that was quite a proper proceeding. How do the Government expect their subordinates to behave if they encourage them to become violent political partizans and to utter libels, and then pay the damages? A more thorough picture of the demoralization of public servants than that which had been shown up within the last few weeks I have never seen. We see prison doctors sending proof-sheets of letters to the Secretary for Ireland for publication in the Times newspaper, the Secretary for Ireland acting as a sort of sub-editor. We see Sheriff Ivory publishing confidential documents of this kind, and at the very time when the trial was pending of the man against whom he made these false statements. The Report was published, I am told, in the month of February, and the man 82 was tried in March. He was acquitted, and naturally he complained, and there need be no surprise that he brought the action. The late Lord Advocate, and with him the Treasury, express the opinions that the money ought not to be paid, but after Sheriff Ivory has sufficiently rated the right hon. Gentleman, and held "Mr. A. J. Balfour" in terrorem over them they yield and agree to this waste of public money. I suppose we may assume that at the close of the financial year the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be bursting with a surplus, and he wants to expend a portion of it upon Sheriff Ivory. If the right hon. Gentleman has a surplus I congratulate him, but I advise him not to spend the public money in the way proposed. I think this was a most improper proceeding on the part of Sheriff Ivory. I think the action brought against him resulted in a just verdict, that to publish the Report as he did was a breach of discipline, and that the publication at the time when the man was about to be tried was much worse than an official indiscretion, and I think the payment of these damages will be an extremely good lesson to Sheriff Ivory and other officials who are disposed to take the law into their own hands and do as they think fit without regard to their official superiors.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I had hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have thanked us for the "Plan of Campaign" we have adopted towards Sheriff Ivory, instead of reproaching us. I should like him to say what other course we should have taken. Would you have us shooting behind a hedge? We found, or thought we found, a Sheriff acting illegally, and we ventured to try the case in a court of law. This is a course which I should have thought would have had the approval of the Party of law and order. I think the Lord Advocate should withdraw his incorrect statement regarding his predecessor, Mr. J. B. Balfour. He told us that the late Lord Advocate wanted these letters of Sheriff Ivory published. His words were, "They both wanted them published." Now, it appears from the letter read by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the late Lord Advocate did not want them published; he deprecated the publication.
§ MR. JACKSON
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Clackmannan did not deprecate the publication of the letters. What he deprecated was the publication of the attacks upon Sheriff Ivory.
§ *MR. J. P. B. ROBERTSON
I said that the right hon. Member for Clackmannan and Sheriff Ivory were at one in desiring that a refutation should be given to the calumnious charges which had been made against Sheriff Ivory.
§ DR. CLARK
I understood him they both wanted the letters published. As a matter of fact, he did not want the publication, and this is one of the many misrepresentations that have been weaved about the facts. We are told that the Government must protect public servants even when they err; but if we are going to have men riding rough-shod over our people, coming at midnight into homes without warrant, whether women or invalids are there or not, taking prisoners without warrant, if they have been doing such things and we bring them into Court to answer and they are mulct in damages, are we then to vote the money here? If that is to be so we must have recourse to another Plan of Campaign. If your Law and Order procedure is thus of no avail, if the Law is to punish, have the Parliament to find the money we must have recourse to the prisons. Sheriff Ivory published this lie for the purpose of biassing the Court and getting a man punished, and what was the evidence of the Sheriff's officer who was deforced? He was mobbed, he said, and the man who came forward and tried to protect him from violence was this man, Norman Stewart. The officer swore that Stewart interfered and he got away unhurt. Here was a good citizen who came to the protection of an officer of the law, perhaps, getting himself into trouble, making himself unpopular in the neighbourhood, and he is made the subject of Sheriff Ivory's attack, and yet we are to pay Sheriff Ivory's costs! Let me suggest to the Attorney General that he should look upon this case of Sheriff Ivory as that of a brother in affliction; let him with his colleagues pay these expenses from their own pockets. The First Lord, who has made considerable profit 84 from the sale of a libellous pamphlet, might join with the Attorney General in subscribing from these ill-gotten gains and the assistance of Sheriff Ivory. The case of the Times is exactly on a par with this of Sheriff Ivory. Suppose the Time, defeated in an action for libel by those which had maligned and slandered, were to come and ask for Parliamentary assistance. You may whitewash Sheriff Ivory, you may condone his illegal action, and if you do it will not be the first time the cause of law and order has been directed with favours of illegality.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)
I do not take the extreme view put forward by some of my friends. I quite admit the duty of supporting public officers in the bonâ fide discharge of their duties, even when they may err, unless, indeed, you pay them in such a way as to guarantee them against the consequences of a mistake. I differ then from the view put forward by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, and had it been necessary I should in the Beaton case have supported the Government, because I believe the Sheriff, occupying his responsible position, did what he did in the performance of a public duty in what he considered to be the public interest. But when we come to the other case—that of Stewart—then I look at it from an entirely different point of view. Here Sheriff Ivory was mulct in damages because he published a libel against Stewart. Apart from the question whether he was right or wrong, I am willing to believe that the Sheriff acted bonâ fide, from passion and prejudice perhaps, but not from malice. But he did not publish this report as part of his official duty, he published it in a newspaper, which was a grave official fault. It is hardly worth while considering that if he had made the Report to his official superior the paper would have become public property and the Sheriff would have been protected; it is not pretended that in publishing it in a newspaper Sheriff Ivory acted for the public interest; no public interest was involved; he acted simply because he was irritated and aggrieved by assaults upon his personal character. There is excuse for Sheriff Ivory. I admit he was greatly irritated; and if it were a question of punishing him or dismissing him for a grave error of judgment 85 we might accept the excuse, but this is not a question of punishing him, the proposal is to punish the taxpayers by levying the damages the Sheriff is called upon to pay, and I must say I do not think we are justified in doing that. So I must vote in the Lobby with my hon. Friends.
§ *MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
I have no feeling against Sheriff Ivory, and do not know much about him; he has done me no harm and I wish to do him no harm, the object of my displeasure is Her Majesty's Government, and what I complain of is their alternative negative and affirmative action. I am at a loss to understand how they succeeded in refuting their own arguments against this claim. The old adage that second thoughts are best has been falsified in this case; the first thoughts of the Government were good, their subsequent thoughts worse and worse. I am surprised at the clumsy and discreditable manner in which they have "turned their backs upon themselves," certainly, if I had to perform the feat I would try to do it in a more graceful way. What did Sheriff Ivory do? An attempt has been made to make light of the libel; but it was in fact a libel published upon a man about to be tried by himself or his representative. He declared this man to be a ringleader of a mob, and promoter of lawless proceedings. I should like to ask English Members to put such a case as this before themselves for one moment. This Judge is going to try this prisoner for being a ringleader of a mob, for being a promoter of lawless proceedings, yet two months before the trial comes on he publishes, on his own authority and without any special provocation, a statement of his opinion in a newspaper that the person whom he was going to try was the leading ringleader of a mob and the principal promoter of the lawless proceedings in the district. What would hon. Members for English constituencies feel if any one of their own Judges, with respect to a prisoner whom he was going to try four weeks hence, were to print in the Times, or any other journalistic receptacle for mendacious and defamatory garbage, a statement that the man awaiting trial was the principal promoter of burglaries or murderous proceedings in the district? I think that 86 steps would be taken to remove such an unjudicial man from the Bench. What are the defences that have been made for Sheriff Ivory in this matter? It has been said that he had the sanction of a gentleman whom I may be allowed to call Lord Advocate Balfour—by reason of his position in a former Parliament—His authority has been adduced as justifying the action of the Sheriff. But we, who know the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Clackmannamshire, believe it to be perfectly unconceivable and utterly impossible that so eminent a jurist as he is, should have ever given his authority or advice to any person in the position of a judge to libel an untried prisoner. That Sheriff Ivory could imagine that he had any such authority goes far to convince me that he is not a person suitable to continue in the exercise of judicial functions. The person Sheriff Ivory libelled was acquitted; he was proved in Court to be innocent, yet after he had retired from the action, which the accused person naturally brought against him, by paying the costs of the plaintiff, he actually continued to defend the publication of the libel, and maintained that it was true. The accusation was published in Feburary; the man was acquitted in March, in June the libel action was disposed of, and on the 26th August, Sheriff Ivory sent a long and elaborate statement to the Treasury, in which he continued to maintain that the man to whom he had paid damages was still guilty of the thing of which by paying the costs, he had previously tacitly admitted that he was innocent. Now, Sir, with respect to the case of Norman Stewart What does Sheriff Ivory say in respect to him?—That he showed consciousness of his guilt in absconding to the hills on the approach of the police to his dwelling, and in doing his utmost to evade the law.But how could he show consciousness of guilt when he was proved in a Court of Law to be innocent? What he did do was to show his consciousness of the extreme danger under which he would be if he fell into the hands of Sheriff Ivory. For myself, if I were wanted for judicial purposes by Sheriff Ivory, I would retire not only to the hills, but to the valleys and to all the "rocks, caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and 87 shades of death" I could think of, before I would entrust my character into the keeping of a magistrate who has shown that he does not possess even the most rudimentary vestige of the elementary principles of justice. Then we have the Lord Advocate coming forward voluntarily in opposition to his predecessor in office, in order to defend Sheriff Ivory. I was sorry to see him take rather a light view of this matter. He speaks lightly of a £200 subject—with his nose in the air—but is that all? He said it was merely a technical error of which Sheriff Ivory had been guilty. He pointed out that the Sheriff could have secured publication of his version of the matter under privilege if he had only waited for the issue of the Report of the Commission of Supply, so that he committed a mere formal offence in publishing it in anticipation of the trial of this unhappy crofter. But is it a right thing—is it merely a technical error to libel an innocent man even under privilege? Is there only a technical distinction to be drawn between a publication by your own act in defiance of your duty, and a publication through the act of others consequent on the compulsory discharge of your duty? I think it is a substantial, and not a technical distinction. Was it a mere technical wrong that was done to this unfortunate crofter? Would it not have been safer for him if Sheriff Ivory had waited until his Report had been issued by the Commissioners of Supply in April? The trial and acquittal took place in March, while Sheriff Ivory published the Report in February, and so this unfortunate man had to fight against tremendous odds, of the public denunciations of the official superior of the Judge who was to try him. This is a strange revelation of judicial life in the North of Scotland. Sheriff Ivory, in the most ingenuous way, shows the ideas of justice which prevail in his mind by writing to his substitute for the reasons for the partial breaking down of the case. The reply was that the Crown witnesses did not come up to the precognitions at either of the crofter trials. That is to say, when these poor people were examined in secret before the Procurator Fiscal they were willing to say a good deal so long as they were not 88 on oath; but when they came to be put upon oath, they shrank from the statements which they had previously been tempted into making by the intolerant swagger and overbearing demeanour with which we are too well acquainted. The Sheriff next brings in a Deus ex machinâ in the shape of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland, who was then Secretary for Scotland. He says—I furnished Mr. A. J. Balfour with notes on a speech of Dr. Cameron containing innumerable charges against me, for the purpose of enabling him to answer those charges in the Crofters' Debate in the House of Commons, which was then about to take place.Later on, he says—But in consequence of the turn which the debate took, Mr. A. J. Balfour, fortunately for me, considered it necessary to supplement the observations of the Lord Advocate, and was pleased to adopt a very different line of conduct in reference to the charges made against me. Mr. Balfour answered conclusively one by one the numerous charges that had been brought against me "—having been previously primed by this gentleman himself. Later still this document continues that Mr. A. J. Balfour observed—The truth is, in my judgment, very scant justice has been done to Sheriff Ivory in this matter."Our law," he continued—is administered, after all, not by angels, but by men; and if you impose upon men a most difficult, laborious, and delicate task, some slight failure there must necessarily be.I am not going to enter into a controversy with the Chief Secretary on a question of angels. A philosopher who having first written a successful Pyrr-honistio treatise proving that science is as baseless as theology, has afterwards elicited rapturous applause from bishops, archdeacons, and honourable women in Church Congress assembled, by apologizing for Christianity on the ground that it is the best working creed for this world if one can only believe in it, is not a person with whom ordinary inquirers should risk a controversy. But I had always understood that even angels suffer for their offences for the sake of maintaining law and order in the universe; and from this it would seemingly follow a fortiori that men in general, and sheriffs in particular, should suffer for their blunders in the interests of the public good. I therefore 89 think Her Majesty's Government perfectly justified in their first purpose of making Sheriff Ivory suffer a little inconvenience in order that he might be made a sadder, if not wiser, man and Sheriff. Now, I will ask the indulgence of the Committee while I turn to the second position assumed by Her Majesty's Government in March, 1883. What are the reasons that they assign for the remarkable reversal of their position six months before? "Taking note of the opinion of Lord Advocate Balfour," that "the Sheriff had acted on the bonâ fide though mistaken belief" that the Lord Advocate had approved of the publication, they sanctioned the payment of the costs and damages. But that the Sheriff persisted in thinking that he was in the right is just what makes him all the more objectionable. The more a fanatic of injustice believes he is right when he is indefensibly wrong the more unfit he is for his position. If a man's ideas are totally wrong and outrageous, then the greater his bonâ fides the more mischief he is likely to do. Let me point out that Lord Advocate Balfour takes very good care to intimate that he never gave Sheriff Ivory any reason to suppose he had his approbation for the outrageous act of which he had been guilty. But, even if Sheriff Ivory had that authority, still the act was glaringly wrong. Lord Advocates may be very great officers, but they cannot possibly give authority to a sensible man to contradict his own common sense, or rather to do that which he knows—or ought to know—to be utterly unjudicial or anti-judicial. We are told to lay great stress on the fact that Lord Advocate Balfour was pleased to say he considered the general conduct of Sheriff Ivory in his work was such as to entitle him to favourable consideration as regards the costs in question. But the opinion of "Lord Advocate Balfour" was written by him when he had ceased to be Lord Advocate, and when he was simply a private member of the Scotch Bar; and a Government which contains the philosopher who teaches that law is administered not by angels but by men, might have remembered the popular—I do not say the accurate—impression that lawyers, upon questions of costs and fees, are not only not angelic, but barely human, and even accipitral 90 in their nature, and in such a matter not disposed to pick out each other's eyes. A brilliant mister of antithesy signalized the difference between Bacon seeking for the truth and Bacon seeking for the Seals, and similarly there is a vast difference between Sheriff Ivory seeking for the crofters and Sheriff Ivory seeking for the costs; in the document seeking for costs there is an evidence of skill and capacity which is sufficient to dumbfound anyone who has read only his first Memorandum. The whole of his trust is wisely reposed upon the name of Mr. A. J. Balfour, who is declared over and over again to be responsible for his actions. From what I know of the feeling which exists in Scotland upon this matter it is regarded as a shameless job. It is thought that it has been wrung out of the good nature of one wearer of the name of Balfour, and by flattering the imperiousness of another wearer of the same name; and that though the man who tries to support himself on two stools is certain to come to grief and to the ground, the man, and especially the Sheriff, who succeeds in supporting himself on two Balfours is equally certain to come to cash and victory.
§ *MR. FRASER-MACKINTOSH (Inverness-shire)
I desire, Sir, in speaking on this subject, to call attention to what the Scottish Members on this side of the House feel with regard to it. What we complain of is that Sheriff Ivory in February, 1885, having reported a confidential communication, containing slanderous matter to the Lord Advocate, took upon himself to issue it to the newspapers. When Sheriff Ivory published that letter he started by stating that he had communicated it to the Police Committee at Inverness, and gave that as a reason why it might be published in the newspapers. From my point of view it does not matter whether the Lord Advocate gave his consent to the publication or not, and I would point out that the document was never published by the Police Committee of the Commissioners of Supply, although the Sheriff implies that when communicated to them, it would necessarily have been made public. No authority given by the Lord Advocate or Commissioners of Supply could privilege slander, and the effect of any such authority would 91 thereby be to make them accessories, and liable in the consequences. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was very severe in his remarks to-night on what was said on a former occasion by my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow (Dr. Cameron), whose exertions on behalf of the people of the Highlands and Islands will never be forgotten in Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman also said that Sheriff Ivory was not guilty of anything in the nature of malice in regard to the man Norman Stewart. I do not want to impute to Sheriff Ivory more than is necessary under present circumstances; but I will take the case against that official from the documents that are before us, including the Memorials to the Treasury, and I will say that though the statements they contain are; to a large extent, inaccurate, if they do not also convey the idea of bias or malice, then one is at a loss to know what malice is. Let us deal in illustration with one inaccuracy. The Sheriff says, in one Memorandum—These proceedings, and also the Conduct of the Government in Skye generally, have frequently been brought under the notice of Parliament, and repeated Motions hare been made by Dr. Cameron and others for public inquiry in regard to them, as well as for the stoppage of my salary and my dismissal from office; but these Motions have, after full and ample discussion, invariably been refused by both Conservative and Liberal Governments.Now, it is not correct to say that any Motion has ever been made in this House for the stoppage of Sheriff Ivory's salary. No such Motion could be made, as the salary does not fall under the Estimates. The hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Rollox (Mr. Caldwell) has commented with just severity on the conduct of Sheriff Ivory after the trial of the men who were charged with a breach of the law, and has pointed out that he being the Sheriff of the County, communicated with the Sheriff Substitute by whom Norman Stewart was acquitted, and demanded to know how it was that he, the Sheriff Substitute, had acquitted that person. The Sheriff Substitute, being obliged to report to his superior, replied that it was because "The Crown witnesses did not come up to their precognitions at either of the crofters' trials." I corroborate to the fullest the statement that such 92 an interference on the part of the Sheriff with the Sheriff Substitute in the administration of justice is not only unjustifiable, but such as has never before been brought under the observation of the public. The publication was made in February, 1885, and the trial took place in March; and, this being so, on what ground was the statement published by the Sheriff to the whole of the Highlands, before the man was tried, that Norman Stewart was a ringleader of the mob? One of the reasons put forward by Sheriff Ivory for the publication of the document was his wish to clear himself from the charges-brought against him by the Rev. Mr. M'Callum, of Waternish. How was Mr. M'Callum treated subsequently? Some time after these charges had appeared, Mr. M'Callum was going to preach for a friend on Sunday, and having to go a considerable distance from his home, travelled on the Saturday night, when he was arrested and taken a great number of miles to Portree, being only released on the following Monday on a bail of £100. And, what happened after this? Why, no further proceedings were taken against Mr. M'Callum. The proceedings of Sheriff Ivory and his subordinates stand condemned by the documents on the Table. I may add that I have great fault to find with the Treasury. I refer to the Treasury Minute, dated 23rd March, 1888. In it the Permanent Secretary states to the Board—At the same time, my Lords fully recognzie the trying nature of the work with which the Sheriff was entrusted, and his great and natural sense of irritation at the serious and unfounded charges of misconduct then made against him. Moreover, their Lordships desire to give full support to any public officer who acts to the best of his judgment in the discharge of his duty.Now, what right has the Treasury to say this? I do not think my language too strong when I say that it is an audacious thing for the Treasury to support Sheriff Ivory in this way, when it is known that public inquiries into his conduct have been made over and over again and refused. With regard to what the people of the Highlands think of Sheriff Ivory, they know that though he has been whitewashed over and over again—they cannot but recollect that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has more than once 93 stopped the sending of troops and gunboats that might have done a great deal of mischief in the Highlands. I say of Sheriff Ivory that, by many things he has done, he has lost the confidence of the Highland people. They say that if there be one name more obnoxious to them than another it is that of Sheriff Ivory, and this not because he happens to be Sheriff of the county, but from the high-handed way in which his proceedings were over and over again carried out in matters which affected the minds of the people. And I would point to the course the debate of to-night has taken. When the case used to come before the House years ago there were very few who took notice of it, but on this occasion we have hon. and right hon. Members taking the matter up, not only on these benches, but on the front bench above the Gangway, and, for my part, I beg to thank those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who have been induced to aid our action. As far as the people of the Highlands are concerned, it is to them inexplicable how the present Government should mix themselves up in a matter with which they have no concern whatever; and, although they have a right to stand up for any official who has done his duty, they will, in passing the Vote now before the Committee, do that which those who are most affected by it will hear of with deep regret.
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 136; Noes 67.—(Division List, No. 22.)
Question put accordingly,
That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £200, be granted to Her Majesty, to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March 1889, for certain Expenses of the Law Agent in Scotland for Government Departments.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 137; Noes 77.—(Div. List, No. 23.)
§ (2.) £24,690, Supplementary, Public Education.