HC Deb 03 June 1918 vol 106 cc1212-3

asked the Under secretary of State for War whether he is aware that Private A. Child, No. 7631, 7th Royal West Kent.Regiment, enlisted on 18th March, 1904, for twelve years, to be extended to thirteen years in the event of war, which period expired on 18th March, 1917; whether Child then applied for his discharge and was refused; whether he is aware that Child became a conscientious objector to killing his fellow men in 1908, but felt that his oath of allegiance was binding until he had completed his term of enlistment; whether he is aware that Child refused to obey orders in March, 1917. when his time expired, and was. sentenced to eighteen months' hard labour, one month remitted by district court-martial; whether he is aware that he was afterwards sent back to France, where he has since been court-martialled twice, receiving sentences of twenty-eight days' field punishment and nine months' hard labour, respectively, the latter term having just expired in No. 5 Military Prison, France; whether he is aware that this man is now awaiting trial by court- martial for again refusing to obey orders; and, seeing that all this procedure is contrary to Army Order of 25th May, 1916, which provides for the soldier who has committed an offence against military discipline and states that the offence was the result of a conscientious objection to military service shall be sentenced to imprisonment and not to detention and shall be confined in the nearest civil prison, will he see that Child is sent to this country to serve his sentence, so that he may have an opportunity of appearing before the Central Tribunal to have his case investigated?


If the facts are as stated by my hon. Friend, I can only say that it has not been our practice to permit the transfer to civil prisons, in the event of their being sentenced to imprisonment by court-martial, of men whose conscientious objection has been evinced under circumstances such as those disclosed in the question.


Is it not a fact that in the Army Instruction on this point it is distinctly stated that these men would be sent even from France to this country to carry out their sentences?


This is quite an exceptional case. This man enlisted in 1904 as a soldier for thirteen years' service. His position is entirely different from that of a man who is called up as a conscientious objector under the Act.