HC Deb 18 May 1896 vol 40 cc1557-8

I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, if he will state the grounds on which Mr. Justice O'Brien, after sentencing Sergeant Dunton to three years' penal servitude, recommended his release; and, whether the learned Judge recommended the reduction of his own sentence from three years to one week?


I informed the hon. Gentleman on Friday last that it was on the recommendation of the learned Judge who tried this case and at his instance that the sentence imposed was remitted. Communications of this kind between the judges and the Executive Government are confidential Documents, and I cannot state the grounds on which Mr. Justice O'Brien based his recommendation.


I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, if he can state what were the mitigating circumstances in Sergeant Dunton's case which induced the Military authorities to permit his continued service under Her Majesty after being sentenced to three years' penal servitude; whether there is any precedent for permitting a convict sentenced to three years' penal servitude to continue in Her Majesty's service; when Sergeant Dunton's rank was reduced, and whether he drew pay as a Sergeant for any time after his release; whether it was at the instance of Dunton's immediate Military superiors that he was retained in the army, and, if not at whose; and, whether, before coming to this decision, the Department made any condition that Dunton should compensate the woman he married or contribute to the support of his child?


The mitigating circumstances were that the Lords Justices considered that the case was such that they discharged the prisoner at the close of the Assize, that he had theretofore been a soldier of exemplary character and that his wife had been unfaithful to him. The sentence of penal servitude having been remitted, the question of precedent did not arise. Dunton was reduced to the rank of private immediately on the receipt of the report on his case. During the few days which intervened between his discharge from prison and his reduction he was entitled to pay as sergeant. He was retained in the Army at the instance of his Military superiors. The condition referred to in the last part of the hon. Member's Question is not within the province of the Military department but stoppage can be made from a soldier's pay, under an order of a Court, for the maintenance of an illegitimate child.