§ 9. Mr. C. Pannell
asked the Secretary of State for War what action he proposes to take about the case of T/22950644 Driver R. Gibbon, arising from the successful appeals of Lance-Corporal Lonergan and Lance-Corporal Mulley, and the comments of the Lord Chief Justice thereon.
§ Mr. John Hare
Four soldiers were convicted. Two of them appealed on grounds which were relevant to their cases only. Driver Gibbon and the fourth soldier did not appeal. After careful inquiry, I have decided that I should not intervene.
§ Mr. Pannell
Is the hon. Member aware that Lance-Corporal Lonergan and Lance-Corporal Mulley were non-commissioned officers, whereas the other two men were drivers? Is he aware that in upholding the appeal of the non-commissioned officers, the Lord Chief Justice said that he would quash the conviction 1116 out of hand and that he thought somebody had slipped up here? Is it not a fact, as the House was warned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Holmes) and myself earlier, that the Secretary of State on reflection appreciates that the whole of this business was a piece of victimisation, wrongfully conceived, which has now been contemptuously reviewed by the Lord Chief Justice? In simple justice, will not the right hon. Gentleman do for Driver Gibbon what the Lord Chief Justice did for Lance-Corporals Lonergan and Mulley?
§ Mr. Hare
I cannot accept what the hon. Member said. The grounds of appeal were personal to these first two men individually, and the court was not referring in any way to the conviction of Driver Gibbon. I must make that absolutely clear. It was Driver Gibbon's own decision not to appeal, as I think the hon. Member knows perfectly well.
§ Mr. Strachey
Does not the Secretary of State agree that the Lord Chief Justice was obviously speaking of the court-martial as a whole and that Mr. Garth Moore, appearing for the Crown, used the words that there was a great deal in the summing up which he could not seriously defend? That was the summing up of all these cases. Surely the Army would do itself much more credit by putting Driver Gibbon in the same position as that in which the two Lance-Corporals have been placed, because surely at least there is now a very strong presumption that his conviction, too, was a mistaken conviction?
§ Mr. Holmes
On a point of order. In view of the fact that this man is one of my constituents, may I ask a supplementary question?
§ Mr. Pannell
Owing to the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, and bearing in mind that this is the first successful appeal 1117 arising from the provisions of the 1951 Act which the Secretary of State has not faced squarely, I give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible time.