HC Deb 06 March 1896 vol 38 cc367-8
MR. J. McLEOD (Sutherland)

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate, whether his attention has been directed to the case of Mr. Duncan Cameron, farmer, Fettes, who has been imprisoned since the 5th of October last (upwards of 150 days) for refusing to take the statutory oath of bankruptcy, Mr. Cameron maintaining that he is able and willing to satisfy all his creditors, and would therefore be perjuring himself if he took the oath referred to; and whether the sheriff has any discretionary power, or the Crown any authority, to put an end to Mr. Cameron's imprisonment?


I am aware of this case. Mr. Cameron was not imprisoned for refusing to take the statutory oath of bankruptcy, which is set forth in Section 95 of the Statute. He was imprisoned under Section 93, whereby, if a person in his position refuses, as he did, to be sworn or to answer lawful questions, he may be committed to prison, "there to remain until he comply with the order." The idea that his taking an oath to tell the truth would involve perjury is, if I may respectfully say so, absurd. I am unwilling to say that the sheriff has no discretionary power to release him. That is a matter, in the first instance, for the determination of the sheriff, if only it is brought before him; but Mr. Cameron has throughout refused to take any one of several ways out of the difficulty which were open to him. I do not think it is a case for the interposition of the Crown.


Am I to understand that the position is this—that if Mr. Cameron refuses to take the oath he will be interned in prison for ever?


I have read the language which Parliament uses and its application to the situation, and I cannot go further.


I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, considering that this gentleman has been in prison now for four months, he will not give special attention to the case, with a view to seeing whether Mr. Cameron can be released?


My attention has been directed to the matter since 6th October last, and I shall continue to give it attention.