HC Deb 12 March 1897 vol 47 cc561-2
MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether his attention has been called to a case that occurred on 2nd March at the Malmesbury petty sessions, in winch a a witness declined to be sworn unless his expenses were paid, on which the Court committed him to prison for seven days for treating the Court with gross disrespect; will he explain what authority the magistrates possessed to commit this witness; and whether he proposes to take any action in the matter?


I have seen a newspaper report of this case. The authority under which the magistrates acted is given by Section 7 of the Summary Jurisdiction Act, 1848, which says, that if a person summoned to give evidence, on appearing before the justices, refuses to be examined upon oath or refuses to take the oath, he may be committed to prison for a term not exceeding seven days. The magistrates appear to have given the prisoner every opportunity before the Court rose of apologising for his refusal, and I cannot see any reason for taking action in the matter.