HC Deb 31 July 1906 vol 162 cc693-5
MR. BRAMSDON (Portsmouth)

I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether his attention has been called to sentences that have been inflicted by courts martial, in some cases of a trivial character, on men in the Navy for striking non-commissioned officers, and to the fact that, with few exceptions, those sentences were of imprisonment with hard labour for terms ranging from six to eighteen calendar months; whether he is aware that in many instances those offences arose whilst the men were under the influence of drink, or were young to the service and had lost their tempers, and afterwards appeared to express genuine regret for their wrong doing; and will he say whether any such sentences were afterwards reduced by the Admiralty, and, if so, in how many cases.


I assume that the term "noncommissioned officers" is intended to include all "superior officers" of a rank below that of a commissioned officer. The Admiralty are unable to regard the striking by a subordinate of a superior officer in the execution of his duty as an offence of a trivial character, but courts martial have full opportunity of taking into account all such circumstances as those referred to by the hon. Member. As regards the last part of the Question, there have been four cases in which the sentences have been annulled or modified during the year 1905.


I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the offence of striking a superior officer in the Royal Navy is regulated by the 16th section of the Naval Discipline Act, 1866, which provides that every person subject to the Act who shall strike, or with any weapon attempt to strike, or draw or lift up any weapon against his superior officer, being in the execution of his office, shall be punished with death or such other punishment as is thereinafter mentioned; and whether, seeing that by Section 86 of the same Act the words superior officer include all officers, including petty and non-commissioned officers, and by the Admiralty Instructions also include acting potty and acting non commissioned officers, lance-sergeants, and lance-corporals borne on the books of one of His Majesty's ships, the Lords of the Admiralty will consider the advisability of recommending that some statutory modication of Section 16 referred to, shall be made in order that, in time of peace at least, the maximum punishment should be reduced to that more in consonance with modern practice.


The Answer to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As regards the second part, the Admiralty do not consider it desirable to make any statutory modification of the Naval Discipline Act intended only to apply in time of peace.