HL Deb 18 May 1886 vol 305 cc1272-3

called attention to a case of alleged embezzlement of the funds of a registered Friendly Society by a prisoner named John Kew, tried before Mr. Baron Pollock at the Nottingham Assizes, held 15th July 1885, which resulted in the acquittal of the prisoner, on the ground that there was no proof of the registration of the Society under the Friendly Societies Act, 1875. He asked whether a copy of the rules of the Society had not been produced to the Central Office of Friendly Societies in London, been there compared with the registered copy, and having been found correct, been stamped with the office stamp; and whether it had not been accepted by the committing magistrates before whom the prisoner had been originally charged? Further, he asked whether the decision of the Court was made in view of the 39th section of the Act of 1875, with respect to the reception in evidence of documents bearing the seal or stamp of the Central Office without further proof; and, if so, whether any amendment of that section is required to give effect to the intention of the Legislature? One of the great objects of the promoters of the Friendly Societies Act was to get rid, as far as possible, of the danger of a failure of justice from equitable grounds.


said, that he had communicated with the learned Judge who tried the case, and he found that the ground on which the prosecution failed was that his Lordship held that there was not sufficient proof of the registration of the Society. The learned Judge proceeded on these grounds. The 11th section of the Friendly Societies Act provided for the issue by the Registrar of an acknowledgment of registration as showing that the Society had complied with the provisions of registration. This acknowledgment was, by the 10th section, conclusive proof of the registration. The learned Judge informed him that it was usual in cases of this kind to produce this acknowledgment of registration. He had not any exact information as to what evidence was proposed to be given in this particular case; but that the counsel for the prosecution did not produce any such acknowledgment was certain. What was produced, he believed, was a certified or examined copy of the rules of the Society; and he should not like to say that a copy of the rules duly authenticated might not have such statements on the face of it as to make it, although falling short of the full legal proof, primâ facie evidence as to the registration. There could be no practical difficulty in the production of the acknowledgment of the Registrar; and, therefore, he could not see that there was any real need for an amendment of the Act. Indeed, he did not apprehend that when it was known that it had been established that the valid proof was in the production of the acknowledgment of registration, that such prosecutions would be attended with any practical inconvenience.