HC Deb 28 May 1900 vol 83 cc1514-5
MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the case, tried in the Central Criminal Court last Thursday, of Sydney Frederick Atkins, director of the Automobile Association, Limited, an indictment againse whom, charging him with fraudulently applying to his own use money belonging to the company, was dismissed by the Recorder on the ground that, although he had considered himself and been considered by the shareholders as a director, there had been some legal informality in his appointment; and whether he will introduce some provision into the Companies Bill now before the House to provide against such cases.

MR. CLANCY (Dublin County, N.)

I bog to ask Mr. Attorney General whether his attention has been drawn to the decision of the Recorder of London, in the case of Sydney Frederick Atkins, reported on Friday, from which it appears that a person in whose appointment as director of a public company there may be a flaw may be guilty, as such director, of fraud and misappropriation of funds, and cannot under such circumstances be brought to justice; and, if so, whether the Government intend to introduce any legislation for the amendment of the law relating to the liability of directors for criminal acts.


I have made inquiries as to the case referred to in these questions. The circumstances were very peculiar. By the articles of association a director could be appointed only by the shareholders at an extraordinary meeting. The accused had been co-opted by the existing directors, and his appointment was therefore ultra vires. The Recorder did not decide that any legal informality or flaw in the appointment of a person who acts as director of a public company would prevent his conviction under Section 81 of the Larceny Act. His decision was confined to the very special circumstances of the case before him, and the legal difficulty would not have arisen if there had been counts in the indictment charging Atkins as a member or officer of the company. Under these circumstances I do not think that it will be found that the consequences of the decision will he such as to make legislation necessary.