HC Deb 28 February 1905 vol 141 cc1449-50

To ask the Secretary of State for War what was the charge upon which T. Coughlan, of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, was sentenced to death on June 28th, 1901, and the grounds upon which his sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life, and his release ordered after he served two and a-half years in prison.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Arnold-Forster.) The case of Private T. Coughlan, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, is as follows:—This man killed a comrade by shooting him with a rifle. He was tried on a charge of murder and convicted, but the Court recommended him to mercy "on the grounds that at the time he committed the offence he was beyond the power of self-control, owing to the liquor he had taken without any food, and exhaustion caused by galloping horse; about in the heat of the day, he being a man apparently physically and morally weak." The confirming officer thereupon commuted the sentence of death to one of penal servitude for life. The Judge Advocate-General in South Africa considered that ''it was a case in which a verdict of manslaughter might properly have been found. There appears to have been an absence of motive." The medical officer who examined Private Coughlan prior to the trial, while certifying him fit for trial, expressed some doubt as to his mental condition. In all the circumstances the Commander-in-Chief considered, when reviewing the case in August, 1903, "that this man might be released on the 21st December, when he will have been in prison two and a-half years." The release was ordered accordingly.