§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
I beg to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty whether the crime for which ordinary seaman Eli Bath was sentenced to five years penal servitude was that of knocking down a midshipman; whether a similar sentence passed in December, 1906, on signalman Abbott for attempting to sell a naval signal-book to the agent of a 489 foreign Power was reduced unconditionally to three years; and whether he will explain why a similar unconditional reduction was not made in Bath's case.
§ MR. MCKENNA
The signalman Abbott was not charged as stated by the hon. Member. The charges were—(a) stealing a boat's signal-book, the property of His Majesty; and (b) improperly leaving his ship. He pleaded guilty; and the Board of that time considered that the offences did not warrant such a severe sentence as five years, and it was reduced accordingly. In the case of Eli Bath, the attack upon the midshipman was brutal and might have been fatal. Recent inquiries as to whether some clemency could not be shown in this case have been met with the answer that his conduct in prison has been unsatisfactory; and no action can therefore be taken.
§ MR. HUNT
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the only thing against Bath in prison was his quarrelling with other prisoners, which may or may not have been his fault? Has he not been in prison now for three and a half years for a quite unpremeditated crime committed in a sudden fit of passion, and is not the revealing of naval secrets a very much more serious crime than that for which Bath is suffering punishment?
§ MR. MCKENNA
Had these points been embodied in the original Question I might have been informed on them.