Page images
PDF
EPUB

of Public

General, with a view to his directing prosecutions, has already been mentioned. The duties cast upon the Director or (b) Director of Public Prosecutions are, however, more specific and

Prosecutions. onerous. And first, by Section 45, “When information is given to the Director of Public Prosecutions that any corrupt or illegal practices have prevailed in reference to any election, it shall be his duty, subject to the regulations under the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1879, to make such inquiries and institute such prosecutions as the circumstances of the case appear to him to require," and later sections provide that the costs and charges to which the Director of Public Prosecutions is put in connection with the prosecution of offenders against the election laws shall be provided in the same manner as the funds for the prosecution of felonies are provided. But he has not to wait for information. He has to seek it, and as we have seen already, his duty is to attend in person, or by his deputy, every Election Court. By Section 43, quoted above, he is bound to obey any instructions given him by the Election Court with respect to the prosecution by him of offenders ; and not only so but by Sub-section 3 of the same section, “It shall also be the duty of the said Director, without any direction from the Election Court, if it appears to him that any person who has Director may not received a certificate of indemnity has been guilty of prosecute a corrupt or illegal practice, to prosecute such person for tion Court. the offence before the said Court, or if he thinks it expedient in the interests of justice before any other competent Court."

CHAPTER II.

THEIR PUNISHMENT.

The tribunals which have jurisdiction to inquire into corrupt and illegal practices, and to inflict penalties of a varying character upon offenders, are as follows:

[ocr errors]

Courts which may punish.

1. Election Commissioners.
2. The Election Court.
3. A Court of Summary Jurisdiction.
4. The Court of Aseize, or where the indictment is removed

by certiorari, the Central Criminal Court, or the
Queen’s Berch Division of the High Court of

Justice; and
5. The High Court of Justice, in suits for penalties.

It is proposed to consider what offences fall under the cognizances of each one of these tribunals and the extent and kind of punishment which may be inflicted.

[ocr errors]

SECTION 1.-ELECTION COMMISSIONERS. An Election Commission is constituted of three members, who must be barristers of at least seven years' standing,

not being members of Parliament, or holding any office or place of profit under the Crown, other than that of a recorder of any city or borough” (15 & 16 Vict. c 57, s. 1).

Election Commissioners have no power to impose either

fine or imprisonment upon any person who is shown to The effect of them to have committed an offence at an election. Their the report of Commis

power is confined to reporting that he has been guilty of the sioners. particular corrupt or illegal practice in question, and then by

virtue of their report, and though the person reported may have obtained a certificate of indemnity, certain disabilities attach to him. Section 38, Sub-section 5, of the Act of 1883, says "Every person who after the commencement of this

by it.

office.

Act is reported by any Election Court, or Election Commissioners to have been guilty of any corrupt or illegal practice, shall, whether he obtain a certificate of indemnity or not, be subject to the same incapacity, as he would under the Act be subject to, if he had at the date of the report been convicted of the offence of which he is reported to have been guilty." This section at once raises the question

What are the inca- The incapa

cities imposed pacities imposed upon a person by a conviction of either a corrupt or an illegal practice.

By Section 6 (3) a person convicted on indictment of any corrupt practice is incapacitated for a period of seven years from (a.) Being registered as an elector or voting at any election (1.) May not in the United Kingdom, whether it be a Parlia- vote at any

election. mentary election or an election for any public

office. (6.) Holding any public or judicial office, and if he (2.) Nor hold

hoids any such office the office shall be vacated. (c.) Being elected to or of sitting in the House of (3.) Nor sit

in House of Commons during the seven years next after hi

Commons for conviction : and if at that date he has been elected, his election shall be vacated from the time of such

conviction. In addition to these incapacities, which result from the mere report of Election Commissioners, Section 38, Subsections 6, 7, 8 and 9 provides for other measures of severity (4.) Special being taken against the particular classes of persons mentioned severities

against. in them when they are reported for any corrupt practice. (1). If the person reported is a justice of the peace, “whether (1.) Justices

of the Peace. he has obtained a certificate of indemnity or not," it is the duty of the Director of Public Prosecutions to report the case to the Lord Chancellor, with such evidence as may have been given of his guilt, and the Lord Chancellor, if he thinks fit, may remove him from the bench. (2). If the (2.) Barristers person reported is a barrister or a solicitor, or belongs to and solicitors. any profession, the admission to which is regulated by law, “ whether such person has obtained a certificate of indemnity or not,” the Director of Public Prosecutions must bring the

seven years.

mitted also

matter before the Inn of Court, High Court, or tribunal having power to take cognizance of any misconduct of such person in his profession, and “such Inn of Court, High Court, or tribunal may deal with such person in like manner

as if such corrupt practice were misconduct by such person (3.) It is sub- in his profession," It would seem that the words “ who

belongs to any profession the admission to which is regulated against doctors, by law," bring medical practitioners (See the 21 & 22 Vict. dentists and clergymen.

c. 56), and dentists (the 41 & 42 Vict. c. 33) within the operation of the section. It is probable, also, that it applies to the case of clergymen of the Churches of England and of

Scotland, the admission to whose respective professions is Severities certainly regulated by the ecclesiastical law. (3). If the against licensed person reported holds a licence or certificate under the persons.

Licensing Acts, and the particular corrupt practice for which he is reported is having “knowingly suffered any bribery or treating in reference to any election to take place upon his licensed premises,” then, whether such person obtains a certificate of indemnity or not, it shall be the duty of the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring the report before the licensing justices. The justices are bound to

enter the report on the proper register of licences, and they May lose their may, if they like, refuse to renew his licence in conse

quence.

The consequences which result from being reported by Election Commissioners as guilty of an illegal practice are not so serious. Section 10 provides that “ a person guilty of an illegal practice shall, on summary conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, and be incapable, during a period of five years from the date of his conviction, of being registered as an elector, or voting at any election (whether it be a parliamentary election or election for a public office within the meaning of the Act), held for or within the county or borough in which the illegal

practice has been committed.” Therefore, the effect upon being

a person of being scheduled for illegal practices is, that for reported for illegal the next five years he is disqualified from being registered or practices.

voting-not generally, but in the county or borough in which he has offended.

licenses.

an

Effect of

It has been said that all these incapacities result from the mere report of Election Commissioners or the Election Court. They are in every case of a stringent, and in some cases of a ruinous character; and, therefore, it is important to see what precautions are taken to prevent the great injustice of the Commissioners reporting innocent persons. Section 38 (1) so far as it is material to the action of Persons heard

in his defence Election Commissioners, provides-_“Before any person is

before reported by Election Commissioners to have been guilty, at reported. an election, of any corrupt or illegal practice

the Commissioners

shall cause notice to be given to such person, and, if he appears in pursuance of the notice, shall give him an opportunity of being heard by himself, and of calling evidence in his defence to show why he should not be so reported.” It is not said that the person charged may appear by his counsel or solicitor, nor is it stated that he may cross-examine the witnesses who implicate him; but, when the nature of the penalties which he incurs if the report is adverse to him is considered, it is difficult to think that an accused person would be refused proper assistance, or the usual facilities for elucidating the truth. Cases are readily conceivable in which the person accused would be incapable of making a statement in self-defence in a crowded court. Without referring to the case of a dumb man, the accused may be a woman or an invalid.

The decision of the Commissioners is not final, for by An appeal Sub-section 2 of Section 38, every person reported by Elec- given. tion Commissioners to have been guilty at an election of any corrupt or illegal practice, may appeal against such report to the next court of oyer and terminer, or gaol delivery, that is, to the next assizes, in and for the county or place in which the offence is alleged to have been committed. The section contemplates the framing of rules to regulate the procedure incident to such appeals, and no doubt a code of rules will be issued in due course. But subject to such rules the section proceeds: “Such appeal may be brought, heard, and determined in like manner as if the Court were a court of

« EelmineJätka »