§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcester, E.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether Ids attention has been called to the case of Mr. Sankey, who was summoned to appear before the Justices of the Kings Heath Petty Sessional Division, on December 16th last, for having a chimney on fire; whether he is aware that Mr. Sankey was represented by his clerk and his solicitor, who were prepared to admit the offence and pay any fine which might be imposed, lint the Magistrates refused to adjudicate in the absence of Mr. Sankey, and issued a, warrant for his arrest; and whether, in so so doing, the Magistrates were acting in accordance with the general practice in such cases; and, if not, whether he will direct the attention of the Magistrates to the usual method of dealing with these cases?
§ MR. ASQUITH
My attention has been called to the case. It is true that a clerk appeared prepared to admit the offence and pay a fine. The Magristrates declined to adjudicate in Mr. Sankey's absence, and I issued a warrant of arrest. After the warrant had been issued the clerk retained a solicitor, but the Magistrates declined to re-open the ease. The question of the issue of a warrant in summary cases is a matter for the discretion of the Magistrates; but I am advised that it is not usual in the Metropolitan Police Court 550 District, in the case of a summons for an offence punishable by a small fine, for a warrant to be applied for or granted when a person not a solicitor appears for the defendant and offers to pay the fine. As a matter of discretion I concur in this view.
§ MR. A. CHAMBERLAIN
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Magistrates issued the warrant because they were advised they could not act otherwise. Under these circumstances, will he communicate his opinion to them?
§ MR. ASQUITH
I think it will be sufficient for the Magistrates to read in the Press the answer I have given the hon. Gentleman.