HC Deb 19 October 1943 vol 392 cc1202-3
34. General Sir George Jeffreys

asked the Secretary of State for War whether his attention has been called to the fact that officers undergoing trial by court-martial have normally to wait under arrest from two to 2½ months between the original investigation and the ultimate promulgation of sentence; that this constitutes a hardship both for the officers concerned and for the units to which they may be attached; and whether, to bridge the period of waiting, Army commanders will be given the necessary powers to confirm sentence and order promulgation without sending the proceedings to the War Office?

Sir J. Grigg

The examination of a batch of recent cases shows that the average time which elapses between the arrest of an officer and his court-martial is under eight weeks. This matter has been very carefully considered from time to time, and I gave some particulars in a reply I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield (Mr. Bull) on 4th May. I am glad to say that the average time between arrest and the promulgation of sentence has been reduced since then. Under the system now in force, Army commanders must send the proceedings to the Judge-Advocate-General for his advice on whether the proceedings are legally in order. This is an important safeguard, and it does not seem to me that it can be dispensed with.

Sir G. Jeffreys

Is it not a fact that Army commanders have trained lawyers attached to their staffs as court-martial officers, and would not the proceedings be considerably speeded up if those trained lawyers gave their advice to the Army commanders and the Army commanders, who are very experienced officers, were empowered to promulgate?

Sir J. Grigg

That has been considered. I think it would remove an important safeguard. To the best of my recollection, the Judge-Advocate-General's representative at Command headquarters would have been involved in the preparation of the case.