§ MR. DODD
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in several of the cases against persons charged before the Justices of the West Biding of Yorkshire, sitting at 199 Barnsley, with rioting at Rockingham and Elscar, and subsequently sent by such Justices for trial at the recent Assizes at Leeds, the Justices refused to bind over material witnesses for the accused persons to appear and give evidence at such Assizes, so that the cost of such witnesses attending the Assizes could not be allowed or ordered to be paid out of the county or other public funds; and whether he will call the attention of the Lord Chancellor to the above facts if found to be as suggested, and to the Report of the Featherstone Inquiry Commission, with a view to strengthening the Barnsley Bench by fresh appointments, and also call the attention of such Bench to the law enabling accused persons to call material witnesses in their defence at the public cost?
§ MR. ASQUITH
It is the clear duty of Justices under 30 & 31 Vict., c. 35, s. 3, to bind over all witnesses called for the defence, not being witnesses merely to character, as have, in their opinion, given evidence in any way material or tending to prove the innocence of the accused person. This is, in my opinion, a duty of great importance in the administration of justice, and it can only be in a case where the evidence is obviously immaterial that the Magistrates are entitled to refuse to bind over the witness. The matter is, however, left by the statute in their discretion, and the Justices referred to inform me that, in case of certain of the prisoners, they did not consider the evidence of such a kind as would warrant them in binding over the witnesses. I cannot interfere with their discretion, and I have no materials before me which would enable mo to say whether it was wisely exercised. The Report of the Featherstone Commission will be duly considered by the Lord Chancellor, so far as it bears on the state of the Magistracy in the West Riding.