HC Deb 24 July 1946 vol 426 cc26-7
46. Mr. Peter Freeman

asked the Prime Minister whether, now that Victory day has been celebrated in this country, all cases of detention of men serving overseas will be reviewed with the object of granting a free pardon or a reduction of sentences.

The Prime Minister

In the Army and Royal Air Force sentences are automatically reviewed after six weeks, and again at intervals of not more than six months with a view to their remission, mitigation or suspension whenever warranted. A review is also carried out after one-third of the sentence has been served. In addition, special review boards have been set up in this country, B.A.O.R. and M.E.F. to review sentences, and it is hoped to extend these boards to all overseas commands. Sentences by naval courts are reviewed on receipt in the Admiralty and may also be reviewed at any time on petition by the offender. The process is exactly the same for offenders serving sentences of detention or imprisonment at home or abroad. Since the conclusion of hostilities a more lenient view has been taken in reviewing sentences, and I do not think that any special action is called for on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Driberg

When my right hon. Friend is considering this matter will he also consider the related point that men are sometimes kept waiting for a long time before their trial comes on, sometimes as long as five or six months, especially in Italy?

The Prime Minister

That seems to be another question. If the hon. Member has any particular points perhaps he will put them to the responsible Service Minister.

Mr. McGovern

Where these reviews are carried out in the way the right hon. Gentleman mentions, especially in view of the fact that the war is now over and with it the period of danger when men are highly strung and commit many offences, will he really consider on behalf of the Government making a generous gesture to wipe out most of these sentences?

The Prime Minister

There has been a careful review, and really I do not believe in the oriental practice of a general gaol delivery to celebrate a victory.

Mr. Peter Freeman

Is it not a fact that a general review has been made in America, and could the right hon. Gentleman not give special consideration to these cases, particularly where they are small offences and as the men concerned have been on active service?

The Prime

Minister: These cases are under review. The hon. Member must not assume that every case is exactly the same.