HC Deb 07 March 1989 vol 148 cc749-50
13. Mr. Key

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what is the average length of time between charges being made and verdicts being delivered in courts-martial.

Mr. Neubert

The length of time elapsing between charges being made and verdicts being delivered varies from case to case. Records are not maintained in a form that would permit accurate calculation of the average time without incurring disproportionate cost.

Mr. Key

Will my hon. Friend look at the efficiency of the Army legal service? Can he say why nine months elapsed between my constituent ex-Warrant Officer Newbery's cancellation of release and the time he was charged? He was subsequently acquitted but his life was in ruins.

Mr. Neubert

Warrant Officer Newbery was charged not with the theft of £700 but on ten counts of false accounting relating to a period between December 1984 and March 1986. The investigation that preceded the charges being brought required the services of a specialist accountant—a trained royal military police officer. There are few such people and their time is much in demand.

The investigation ultimately resulted in a report of nearly 100 pages, and I am satisfied that there was no undue delay. Once the charges were brought the court martial was set for six or seven weeks later. It was delayed for a further few weeks solely at the request of the defence. Throughout that time, Warrant Officer Newbery remained on full pay, except for one month when he took unpaid leave to attend to his business interests.