HC Deb 25 April 1907 vol 173 cc281-2
MR. BOTTOMLEY (Hackney, S.)

I beg to ask Mr. Attorney-General whether his attention has been called to recent cases in which, in the course of judicial proceedings, charges have been made against absent persons not parties to such proceedings; and whether he will consider the desirability of introducing legislation to amend the present law of libel, by annulling the plea of privilege at present protecting the authors and publishers of such charges.


I see great, difficulty in limiting the privilege now existing which protects from actions, witnesses and others concerned in the conduct of judicial trials who make statements in court which cast reflection upon absent persons who are not parties to the cause. It would also be difficult to prevent the publication of these statements whenever they form part of a fair and accurate report of the proceedings, although I think that individuals often suffer seriously owing to charges against them being unnecessarily made and thoughtlessly repeated in the public press. The hon. Member has in particular good cause to complain of an incident of this kind to which he has drawn my attention.


May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he will consider the desirability of representing to the proper Government Department the importance of advising coroners who hold inquests on suicides not to give publicity to letters written by demented persons before committing suicide, casting aspersions on living persons who have no opportunity of repudiating them?


Coroners must be well aware of the desirability of exercising caution in that matter, and the Press who report these inquests must also be conscious of their duty in the matter.