Orders of the Day — Army Offences (Sentences).

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 9th July 1942.

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Mr. Robertson:

On 23rd June I asked the Secretary of State for War the following Question: Whether he has considered the case of an officer convicted of stealing War Department petrol, and sentenced by general court-martial, to be dismissed from His Majesty's service, which was confirmed, and at once reduced to a severe reprimand; and, to prevent injustice, whether he will reconsider in the light of this case, that of the Streatham non-commissioned officer in the same unit convicted of a similar, but lesser, offence at about the same time, who was put under close arrest for 21 days prior to court-martial, and thereafter reduced to the ranks, and compelled to serve a sentence of three months in detention barracks? My right hon. Friend replied: Both these cases were tried by court-martial, and the sentence in each case was reviewed by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Command. I do not feel that I should be justified in interfering with the decisions of the competent military authorities. I then asked: Is there not something wrong with a system which punishes the corporal so severely and lets the officer off so lightly? My right hon. Friend replied: The hon. Member is assuming that the circumstances were the same in each case. So far as I can judge, and certainly so far as the responsible authorities have judged, the circumstances were not parallel."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd June, 1942; cols. 1796–7, Vol. 380.] The corporal is one of my constituents. Early in April his father, who is also my constituent, consulted me about his son's case. The corporal is a pre-war Territorial volunteer, who served in France, and escaped by Dunkirk. He has an excellent character. He has a motor-cycle which he mainly uses for visiting his wife on short leave. One day he was stopped by his major and asked whether he had War Department petrol in his tank. The corporal at once admitted that he had, and said that he had got it the previous night because his tank was empty and it was some considerable distance to the filling station. He was placed under close arrest for 36 days—I made a mistake in saying 21 days.