HC Deb 20 December 1961 vol 651 cc1334-5
10. Mr. Pentland

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that 23237377 Sergeant Atkinson of the Military Provost Staff Corps, who was charged on five counts of making false accusations at a court martial in Malta on the 5th and 7th January, 1961, was subject, as a result, to considerable financial outlay; and, in view of the fact that he was acquitted by the court martial on all charges, if he will consider paying compensation to cover the costs of his defence.

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. John Profumo)

Yes, Sir. Arrangements have been made to refund to Sergeant Atkinson the costs of his defence at the court martial.

Mr. Pentland

I very much appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's reply, but will he look further into this case? Is he satisfied that Sergeant Atkinson has not been subjected to a certain amount of provocation and victimisation over the past twelve months? Will he have another look at this case to see exactly what has happened?

Mr. Profumo

I have looked into this case very carefully, and so has my hon. Friend. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that in so far as his character is affected—I mean the character of the sergeant and not the character of the hon. Gentleman—all records relating to this incident have been expunged from his documents. He should, therefore, have nothing to fear on that score.

Mr. Paget

Will this be a general principle, that where people are acquitted by courts martial the War Office will hold itself responsible for the costs incurred by a man found innocent? It is certainly a principle which we should welcome.

Mr. Profumo

I think that that is hypothetical. Each case would have to be considered on its merits. It is sufficient to say that this is a case which satisfied that criterion.

Mr. Paget

Have not they been judged by a court martial?