HC Deb 13 April 1891 vol 352 cc350-1
MR. M'LAGAN (Linlithgow)

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether his attention has been called to what occurred in a Small Debt Court, at Air-drie, on Friday, the 27th of March, when Sheriff Mair, the presiding Judge, is reported to have said, on a witness declaring himself to be a teetotaler, that he did not believe his evidence, because a teetotal witness always took an extreme view in cases where people who took drink were concerned; whether he has seen the letter of Sheriff Mair in defence of himself, in which he said— What I did say was that their evidence was not so reliable in a question as to drunkenness as that of persons not teetotalers, who did not have such extreme and even perverted views as to whether a man was drunk or sober"; and whether he is the same Sheriff Mair who, in the same Court in 1888, said to teetotal witnesses, giving evidence as to whether a man was drunk or not, "Go away, I do not believe you;" and, if so, how he proposes to deal with the matter?


If the learned Sheriff had expressed a disbelief in the veracity of total abstainers as a class it is obvious that this would have been a wholly unwarrantable reflection on a most respectable and increasing section of the community. I am happy to find, however, that no such reflection was intended on-either of the occasions referred to. In each case the question was whether a certain individual was or was not drunk; and in the Sheriff's view the abstaining witnesses being presumably less conversant with and more critical of the habits of non-abstainers, he rejected their evidence in favour of the evidence of other credible witnesses with whom they were in conflict. It is quite probable that in the cases in question this. was a correct appreciation of the conflicting testimonies; and it is plain that the feeling which seems to have been caused by the learned Sheriff's observations would not have arisen if his view had been expressed in less absolute and pungent terms. I am happy to learn that the Sheriff has always held that in general there are no better witnesses than teetotalers; and I cannot doubt that he will see the expediency of letting this be manifest in any future judicial criticisms he may find it necessary to make on similar occasions.

MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rol-lox)

May I ask whether the Sheriffs of Scotland are capable of being judged in this House in regard to their conduct on the Bench except by an address to the Crown?


I do not understand the question to have been asked with the view of obtaining a judicial decision, but simply to call attention to statements which have become public in the ordinary way.