HC Deb 14 March 1962 vol 655 cc1289-90
1. Mr. A. Brown

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty how many Royal Navy personnel, being persons under the age of 21 years, were found guilty before naval courts of desertion, absence without leave, and similar service offences, during the period 1st January to 31st December, 1961, or, alternatively, during the last twelve months for which figures are readily available; and how many such persons were sentenced to dismissal from Her Majesty's service and to a term of imprisonment which was served in a civil prison.

The Civil Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing)

During 1960, the latest period of twelve months for which comprehensive figures are available, 211 ratings under the rate of 21 years were found guilty of desertion. It would take an enormous amount of research to provide the corresponding figures for absenteeism and other "Service offences". Forty-four ratings were, however, dismissed and sent to a civil prison following conviction of desertion, improper absence or other "Service offences"

Mr. P. Browne

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in 1961 in Exeter prison alone there were eleven of these lads serving prison sentences and that these sentences were nearly all Service sentences for such offences as being absent without leave or being improperly dressed? Does not my right hon. Friend think that something should be done about this? Is there a law which forbids him to send these personnel to military prisons?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

People are sent to these places only if they have already been dismissed the Service. In 90 per cent. of the cases they have already served one or more periods in a naval detention centre. However, I agree with the spirit of what my hon. Friend said; even then it is not right that they should go to civil prisons. At present, there is legislation which is shortly to be amended. When it is amended we shall be able to send them to military prisons.

Mr. Willis

How do these figures for desertion compare with those for the other Services?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I cannot say without notice.

Sir J. Maitland

How many people were sent to prison for being improperly dressed?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

One young man was sent to prison for being improperly dressed but in this instance he had already committed two much more serious offences. It was thought that this was both flagrant and provocative. In spite of the fact that his misdemeanours had been pointed out to him, he seemed to be clearly under the intention of committing an offence of this sort. It was not a case of "accidental improperly dressed" but of "studied improperly dressed". He has been dismissed the Service.