HC Deb 25 February 1901 vol 89 cc1043-4
* SIR WALTER THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)

I beg to ask the Lord Advocate under what statute the Fishmongers' Company are empowered to send detective officers to railway stations in Scotland who open parcels, committed to the railway companies for transmission, in search for salmon in defiance of remonstrances by railway officials; whether he is aware that several people have been charged before the Sheriff at Peebles for sending cuts of salmon to friends at a distance, although such salmon were killed by a legal lure and in the open season, because they were alleged to have been purchased at a period of the year when Tweed salmon cannot he exposed for sale: and whether he, is aware that the action of the Fishmongers' Company has aroused indignation among all classes of the community in Peeblesshire, and, if legal, is calculated to bring the administration of the law into Contempt.


In answer to the first paragraph of the question I am informed that it is the fact that an officer of the Fishmongers' Company, who held a warrant as water bailiff of the Forth and also of the Tweed Commissioners, did on several occasions in conjunction with a detective officer of the Edinburgh police search parcels at the Waverley Station for salmon in transitu which were alleged to have been illegally taken. The statute relied on for the power is the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act, 1868, Section 25. In answer to the second paragraph the result of nine prosecutions brought in respect of the fish so discovered was as follows: three pleas of guilty, two convictions, three not proven, and one not guilty. As regards the third paragraph it is open either to the consigner or consignee of a parcel and to the railway company, if they are not satisfied as to the applicability of the section already mentioned, to try the question at law.


I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether his attention has been directed to the practice on the part of the Fishmongers' Company of London, a Corporation of great wealth, bringing complaints, laid under the Salmon Fisheries Acts, in Newcastle or elsewhere in England, against domiciled Scotsmen living in Scotland (possibly in remote parts of it), and under colour of certain English Acts of Parliament hailing Scotsmen to appear to submit to the jurisdiction of what is to them practically a foreign court; whether he will take all needful steps to put an end to these proceedings and leave Scotsmen to be judged in the courts of their own country for any alleged charge arising there, instead of having, as at present, under the proceedings complained of, and whether the charge made is with or without foundation, to go to England and take witnesses to defend them there at great and sometimes prohibitive expense.


I am aware of the case referred to by the hon. Member, no other instance has been brought under my notice. I am satisfied that there is power under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts (England) to summon persons living in Scotland to attend to answer a charge of an offence committed in England. Such a power may or man not be oppressively used, but I should hesitate to condemn its existence. In the case in question I do not think the person charged would have been convicted had he not, acting under advice which I consider mistaken, pled guilty to the charge.