§ MR. LAMBERT (Devonshire, South Molton)
I beg to ask the Secretary of State for War whether any men convicted of military offences in South Africa are in civil convict prisons; whether any sentences have been passed by which such men are herded with ordinary convicts and felons; if so, will he state the number of men upon whom such punishments are inflicted.
§ MR. SPEAR (Devonshire, Tavistock)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will at the same time say if there are any men from the front in South Africa committed to Dartmoor prison for sleeping while on duty; and, if so, could he recommend some less severe form of punishment.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Some men convicted of military offences in South Africa are in civil convict prisons, where they are classified as, and associated with, civil first offenders. I have no information to show the exact number of soldiers so placed, but thirty-one men found guilty of sleeping on their posts are confined in convict prisons. The question of segregating military prisoners is at present under consideration. Sleeping on duty on active service is an offence of great gravity, as it endangers many lives, and has in the present campaign been the cause of surprise and loss of several posts. It therefore, by military law, subjects the offender to the penalty of death. Two men in South Africa have been sentenced to death, but the death penalty has been commuted by Lord Kitchener to penal servitude. In other cases sentences of penal servitude or imprisonment have been given. The Commander-in-Chief is at present considering these cases individually, and the hon. Member may rest assured that wherever leniency can be properly shown a mitigation of punishment will 1317 be ordered. I am not aware how many of such offenders are confined in Dartmoor Prison, as the distribution is arranged by the Home Office, but the question of the segregation of prisoners convicted of military offences from others is being considered.