HC Deb 16 November 1926 vol 199 cc1688-9

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether any representations have been made to the American Government with reference to the refusal of the officer commanding an American destroyer to hand over for trial a man who had murdered another sailor in a dance hall at Greenwich; whether the action of the officer in question is to be regarded as a precedent in future cases and as regards Government sailors of other nationalities; and if any, and what, steps will be taken against the officer in respect of his refusal to hand the accused man over for trial?

The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Mr. Godfrey Locker-Lampson)

No, Sir. The United States Ambassador asked that no English warrants should be executed and gave an assurance that if this course were followed the guilty person or persons would be dealt with in accordance with the United States Navy Court Martial Regulations. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department considered that in the special circumstances of this case a United States Tribunal would be the more convenient court, and in reliance on the assurance of the Ambassador he agreed, as a matter of international courtesy, that the accused person or persons should be left in the hands of the United States authorities to he dealt with. In coming to this decision, my right hon. Friend had in mind the fact that both the accused and the injured seamen belonged to the United States Navy and that no British subject was directly concerned. For a statement of International Law on the subject, I may refer my hon. and gallant Friend to Oppenheim's International Law, volume 1, part II.


Is it allowable that a man shall land from a ship and shoot another on English soil, and get no punishment in this country?


I must not try to interpret the international law on the subject, but the general principle is that if a foreign warship is in the territorial waters of another Power, it is considered to be part of the State to which the warship belongs.

Vice-Admiral Sir REGINALD HALL

Is there any precedent for this system which has now been established?


I would like to have notice of that question.