HC Deb 02 June 1942 vol 380 cc517-8
62. Major Sir Jocelyn Lucas

asked the Home Secretary whether, in view of the great difficulty of preventing looting during and immediately after air raids and of the reluctance of the judiciary to utilise the death penalty for the offence, he will, to protect the public, now authorise such offenders being dealt with by military courts with plenary powers?

Mr. Peake

From time to time representations have been made to my right hon. Friend both that particular sentences are too heavy and that sentences in general are too light, but the information available as to the penalties imposed by the courts up and down the country does not support the suggestion that there has been any general reluctance to pass adequate sentences. The suggestion that the time and attention of military officers should be diverted to the business of trying civilian offenders would, I am sure, be unwelcome both to the military authorities and to Parliament.

Sir J. Lucas

Is my hon. Friend aware of the great satisfaction which was felt in a town recently bombed when it was rumoured that the military had been given orders to shoot first and to inquire afterwards?

Mr. Peake

I am not aware of those circumstances, but my hon. and gallant Friend may be pleased to hear that 60 sentences of penal servitude have been imposed for looting.

Dr. Haden Guest

Would the hon. Member make it quite clear that it is not the intention of the Government to establish military courts with plenary powers to deal with special offences, apart from any local circumstances which might make that course necessary?

Mr. Peake

Yes, Sir; that is quite so.

Mr. Mack

Are the Government prepared to establish the death penalty for commercial and economic looting, which, quite apart from the offences which have been referred to, takes place in normal times?