I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether his attention has been drawn to the fact that, in a recent case tried before the Bath magistrates, a witness who claimed to affirm was denied the right to do so by the chairman, who is also chairman of the Watch Committee who were the prosecutors; whether the Home Office proposes to take any action in this matter; and whether he will take steps by legislation or otherwise to prevent the chairman of a prosecuting committee taking the chair on the bench when cases from the committee are being tried.
My attention was called to this matter on the 14th instant, and I communicated with the Bath magistrates. I am informed that the witness in question claimed to affirm, but as he declined to state either that he had no religious belief or that taking of an oath was contrary to his religious belief, the conditions prescribed by Section 1 of the Oaths Act, 1888, were not complied with, and the magistrates therefore declined to allow him to affirm. In a previous case tried on the same day the witness had taken the oath without any objection. The prosecution in this case was not ordered by the Watch Committee. I see no ground for any action on my part in the matter.