HC Deb 04 November 1919 vol 120 cc1306-7
38. Mr LUNN

asked what is the number of men of all ranks now serving sentences of more than three months' duration for military offences?


To provide this information would necessitate obtaining returns from all military commands at home and abroad. It would take a considerable time, and, in view of the amount of labour involved and the reductions which are being made in the staff of the Department, I am afraid I cannot undertake to have the Return prepared. Moreover, before it could be completed the information would be out of date, as sentences are being constantly reviewed and remitted.


Are the Government considering the advisability of releasing these men in celebration of the Armistice?


The Government have considered that and have arrived at the conclusion that there was no case for a general amnesty on the conclusion of the War. The numbers of men serving penal servitude are very small. The offences for which they have been sentenced are mostly of a very grave character and of a non-military character, but all these sentences have been subjected to a very careful review and a very great reduction in the aggregate number of years of penal servitude has been granted. So far as detention barracks are concerned, they are only a part of the ordinary discipline of the Army, and I am not aware that the population in the detention barracks at present is excessive.


Have not some of the so-called reductions in sentences been of a brutal character—for instance, penal servitude for seven years reduced to two years' imprisonment?


I do not think that the House will agree with that. I have heard it said that three years' penal servitude is less severe than two years' imprisonment, but a change from seven years' penal servitude to two years' imprisonment is a great reduction.


Have some of these cases been already sympathetically considered by the War Office?


A large number.


Has the review of sentences been closed, or will it continue?


The review is going on continually.

42. Mr. BRIANT

asked the Secretary of State for War if he will take steps to release Driver C. Newell, No. 01680, Royal Army Service Corps, who was sentenced on 2nd February, 1918, to a term of imprisonment for insubordination, but after being released for active service was again imprisoned to finish his term of imprisonment after the Armistice was declared; and if he will order all similar cases to be released?


I am making inquiry in this case, and will write to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.