asked the Lord Advocate, Whether his attention has been called to the fact that, while in certain districts of Scotland sheriffs have ordered the procurators fiscal within their jurisdiction to prosecute defaulting parents under the Scotch Education Act without fees, and as part of his ordinary work as public prosecutor, a contrary course has been adopted by the sheriffs in other districts; whether he is aware that the fees charged by procurators fiscal in certain instances have tended to prevent the enforcement of the compulsory provisions of the Scotch Education Act; and, whether he will be pleased to direct that henceforth procurators fiscal conduct such prosecutions without fees and as a part of their regular duties?
THE LORD ADVOCATE
I have to inform the hon. Member for Glasgow that my attention has been called to the fact that in Scotland very great difference of opinion exists as to whether the procurator fiscal is bound to conduct prosecutions by school beards gratuitously. A number of the sheriffs principal in Scotland are disposed to take one view, and some another view, and the result is that in certain counties the prosecutor fiscal prosecutes without payment, and in other places prosecutes, but makes a charge. I believe, also, that in some cases the sheriff has required his procurator fiscal to prosecute without charge. The sheriff is undoubtedly in a position to do that with effect, because the patronage of the office of fiscal belongs to him, and in the event of disobedience of his orders, whether the fiscal likes them or not, he has the power of dismissing the fiscal without explanation or apology. I am not aware 1451 that the fees chargeable have tended to prevent the enforcement of the compulsory provisions of the Act. The 70th section of the Education Act gives every school board the option of employing the procurator fiscal of the county or any other person they choose; but from Returns which have come under my notice, I am aware that the amount of the fees paid for prosecutions by the procurator fiscal in 1876 only amounted to the sum of £61. In answer to the third part of the Question, I have to say that as there is so much difference of opinion, I cannot say that it is the duty of the procurator fiscal to prosecute, and I am not prepared in the present state of the law to impose upon him any duty which is foreign in its character to the usual and regular duties of the office of fiscal as suggested in the hon. Member's Question.