§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War will he inquire whether a sergeant of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was tried at Kasanli, India, on the 17th July, on a charge of drunkenness, and, expecting to be summarily dealt with, in reply to the usual question of his Commanding Officer, admitted and expressed regret for the offence; was the sergeant remanded to a District Court Martial, and then, on a plea of "not guilty" being put in, did the Court, deeming the evidence insufficient, call witnesses to prove the admission made to the Commanding Officer; did the prisoner protest that this was no confession, quoting par. 72, c. 6, M.M. (large edition), and was the objection overruled on the authority of par. 81, c. 6; was the prisoner then convicted on his alleged confession, although before a Court Martial itself a plea of "guilty" may be withdrawn and cannot be availed of to prejudice the accused; and whether, in view of the fact that such procedure and reception of evidence raise a large question of principle affecting the rights of soldiers, and also considering that men will be placed in a position of great difficulty in answering the questions of their Commanding Officers when expecting to be summarily dealt with, the Military Authorities will give the matter their immediate attention?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN,) Stirling, &c.
It is impossible to answer this question without referring to the proceedings of the Court Martial, which are not in our possession. The Commander-in-Chief in India has been asked to forward them to the War Office with a full Report on the whole case.