HC Deb 28 August 1893 vol 16 cc1211-2

I beg to ask the Secretary for Scotland whether his attention has been called to the case of Abraham Mitchell, recently a grey cloth Inspector in the employment of Messrs. William Stirling and Sons, and for some years a member of the Cardross School Board, who was sentenced at Dumbarton Sheriff Court on Saturday last, the 19th instant, to 30 days' imprisonment with hard labour for inciting and employing Robert Brown, then a clerk in the employment of Messrs. William Stirling and Sons, to steal a grey cloth standard book; whether it is true, as reported, that previous to his arrest Mitchell was offered freedom from prosecution if he would sign an acknowledgment of having fraudulently obtained the book and an apology for his ungrateful and unworthy conduct; whether it is true, as reported, that the only direct evidence against Mitchell was that of Brown, who admitted that he had taken the book in question and handed it to Mitchell, but added that he had been told that if he did not sign a declaration making the charge against Mitchell he himself would be sent to gaol; whether the witness Craig swore that she had taken a standard book from the works about the time when search was being made for the book alleged to have been stolen, and had afterwards returned it; and whether, in fact, the book alleged to have been stolen was discovered in Messrs. Stirling's works; and whether, in view of the facts of the case, he will consider the propriety of reviewing the sentence?


I have obtained a Report from the Sheriff who tried the case, and I will answer the questions put by my hon. Friend upon his statement of evidence adduced at the trial. It appears from the Sheriff's Report (1) that it was not proved that Mitchell was offered freedom from prosecution upon the terms suggested; (2) that it is not the case that the only direct evidence was Brown's; and (3) that what the witness Craig said was that one of the workers had given her a standard book for a night to show her friends. The book which Mitchell was charged with having stolen, after being missed from the works, was found in them on the morning before the trial in a condition which showed that it had just been replaced. As the case depends entirely on the credibility of the testimony, I am not able to interfere with the conclusion arrived at by the Judge who saw and heard the witnesses.

*MR. HOZIER (Lanarkshire, S.)

Wore not these proceedings instituted by the Procurator Fiscal under instructions from the Crown Office in Edinburgh?


Yes, Sir.

*SIR C. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

Has the right hon. Gentleman's attention been drawn to the fact that this Procurator Fiscal is a partner in a legal firm practising in this district, and during the recent election intimately associated with the gentleman who instigated the prosecution; and will he take steps to put an end to the practice of Procurators Fiscal being mixed up in private practice?


My attention has been called in several quarters to the connection between this Procurator Fiscal and a private firm. I think this is a most glaring instance of a state of things which the Government, by recent appointments in several counties, have succeeded in putting an end to.


I want to be perfectly clear on this point. Was the Procurator Fiscal acting on instructions from the Government Authorities in Edinburgh?