The North Division of the County of Louth: 1911

Madden J explained the Act: ‘The Act of 1895 afforded a further protection to constituencies and to candidates. The mischief against which it was directed was an abuse of the right of free discussion by the dissemination among a constituency of false statements of fact, written or spoken, in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate . . Reading the section I find that the false statement must relate to personal character or conduct, ‘personal’ as distinguished from ‘public’, and it must be one of fact . . A public man in his candidature, as in Parliament, is liable to misrepresentations as to his public character or conduct, and it can be readily understood why the Legislature has not thought fit to protect either the constituency or the candidate against misrepresentations of this kind . . It has drawn the line of defence at a false statement of fact in relation to personal character or conduct . . The primary protection of this statute was the protection of the constituency against acts which would be fatal to freedom of election. There would be no true freedom of election, no real expression of the opinion of the constituency, if votes were given in consequence of the dissemination of a false statement as to the personal character of conduct of a candidate.’
An untrue statement of fact in an election publication may relate to the personal character of a candidate even though it also relates to his public or political character. Madden J said: ‘to represent a candidate who comes forward as a member of a Parliamentary party, bound by pledge to seek no favours from any administration, as a place-hunter, obtaining from the Government of the day lucrative employments for himself and his family and friends, is to accuse him of political misconduct. Whether he has sought for and obtained such favours is a question of fact, and a question of fact relating to his personal conduct. A false statement of fact relating to his personal conduct may be used for the purpose of representing a candidate as guilty of either private immorality or public immorality, political or otherwise, and it is in either case equally within the statute.’ and
‘A politician for his public conduct may be criticised, held up to obloquy; for that the statute gives no redress; but when the man beneath the politician has his honour, veracity and purity assailed, he is entitled to demand that his constituents shall not be poisoned against him by false statements containing such unfounded imputations.’
and: ‘A general recommending officers for promotion who had lent him money, a Minister who betrayed cabinet secrets to a foreign friend, would be guilty of official and political misconduct, which, as a matter of public concern, would merit comment; but such conduct would at the same time involve personal delinquency. If such person was candidate as at an election, and false charge of the above character was made, would it not be a false statement as to both personal character and conduct.?’


Madden J, Gibson J


(1911) 6 O’M and H 103


Corrupt and Illegal Practices Prevention Act 1895 1 2

Cited by:

CitedFairbairn v Scottish National Party 1979
Lord Ross held that a statement made during the course of an election campaign, which suggested that the pursuer (a member of parliament) did not collect his constituency mail from the House of Commons Post office was an attack on his character as a . .
CitedWatkins v Woolas QBD 5-Nov-2010
The petitioner said that in the course of the election campaign, the respondent Labour candidate had used illegal practices in the form of deliberately misleading and racially inflammatory material.
Held: The claim succeeded, and the election . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 02 May 2022; Ref: scu.425814