HC Deb 09 March 1915 vol 70 cc1344-5

A sentence of death shall not be passed on a person subject to the Naval Discipline Act for striking, or with any weapon attempting to strike, or drawing or lifting up any weapon against, his superior officer, and accordingly for Section sixteen of that Act the following Section shall be substituted:—

"Every person subject to this Act who shall strike or attempt to strike, or draw or lift up any weapon against, or use or attempt to use any violence against, his superior officer, whether or not such such superior officer is in the execution of his office, shall be punished with penal servitude or such other punishment as is hereinafter mentioned."


I think it is due to the Committee to explain precisely what the scope of this Clause is. I endeavoured to explain yesterday that it relates to Section 16 of the original Act only. That Section provides that the maximum penalty for striking or attempting to strike a superior officer with a weapon when engaged in the execution of his office is death, and that the maximum penalty is penal servitude for striking or attempting to strike otherwise than with a weapon, or for using or attempting to use violence against a superior officer in the execution of his office, and that penal servitude is the maximum penalty for striking or attempting to strike without a weapon, or using or attempting to use violence against a superior officer not being engaged in the execution of his office. For that Section 16 we substitute this Clause 1, which makes in every such case penal servitude the maximum penalty. As I pointed out, there might be cases in which the matter might be dealt with summarily, and the commanding officer could give a maximum of three months' imprisonment. Of course, he might ask for a court-martial and proceed to make a charge, and the Noble Lord (Lord C. Beresford) and, I think, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chamberlain) asked how that would affect death being the maximum penalty in other parts of this Act. That is a question I wish to bear in mind. Death would remain the maximum penalty: For misconduct in the presence of the enemy, under Sections 2, 3, 4 and 5; for correspondence with the enemy under Section 7; for mutiny accompanied by violence under Section 10; for the ringleader of a mutiny unaccompanied by violence under Section 11; for inciting to mutiny under Section 12; for desertion to the enemy under Section 19; for not taking care of and defending ships under convoy, under Section 30; for burning any dockyard, magazine or vessel, etc., not belonging to an enemy, pirate or rebel, under Section 34; for murder under Section 45. In these cases death remains the maximum penalty.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman where he intends to put this in the Naval Discipline Act?


In the 1866 Act there is a line printed as amended. We shall put that line at the top. We shall, as the result of the Amendment, include these emendations. In place of Section 16 there will be this Clause I.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.