§ MR. DONALD CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether his attention has been called to the prosecution of a miner in the Sheriff Court at Hamilton for a contravention of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, by using a stemmer or other implement of a description forbidden by the Act; whether the trial was fixed for 4th March, but, when the case was called, it was without any previous notice postponed indefinitely, at the instance of the Public Prosecutor, on the ground that some of his witnesses were ill; whether eight working miners attended the 689 Court as witnesses for the defence; whether he will consider the propriety of re-imbursing those witnesses for the loss of their wages and expenses; and whether he will give such instructions to the Procurator Fiscal as will prevent such inconvenience and loss being caused to witnesses who attend in the performance of a public duty?
§ * THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. P. B. ROBERTSON,) Bute
I have inquired into this matter. It was not possible to give any notice of postponement of trial, as the Procurator Fiscal was only made aware of the absence from illness of an essential witness half an hour before the hour fixed for the trial. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the number of working miners present, given in the question, but am unable to say positively, as no notice was given to the Procurator Fiscal either as to the number of these witnesses or the nature of their evidence. It would be quite contrary to practice to re-imburse such witnesses. The professional and official experience of the hon. Member must doubtless make him aware that such a delay as occurred in this case is sometimes unavoidable, and of very rare occurrence. Every care is taken by the Public Prosecutors, where it is possible for them to do so, to intimate any postponement, and to avoid inconvenience and loss to those persons who may have to attend. In these circumstances I think he will agree with me that it is undesirable to issue instructions to the Procurator Fiscal which would imply censure where no error had been committed.