British Soldiers (Murder Convictions)

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th July 1996.

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Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr 12:00 am, 11th July 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many British soldiers are currently imprisoned convicted of murder for incidents which occurred when they were on active duty in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. [35389]

Photo of Mr John Wheeler Mr John Wheeler , Westminster North

There are two. Such cases are subject to the normal, well-established review procedures that apply to all life sentence cases in Northern Ireland. As with any life sentence case, they have been, and will continue to be, considered strictly on their individual merits and in the light of all the available information—including the comments of the judiciary which dealt with the cases before, both at the original trial and on appeal.

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr

Can the Minister advise whether soldiers in such circumstances have been released in the past? If so, how many years did they serve in prison?

Photo of Mr John Wheeler Mr John Wheeler , Westminster North

No, I cannot comment on previous cases. All I can say is that each case must be considered on its merits and in accordance with the law and the appropriate judicial procedures that apply to the individual, arising from the jurisdiction under which he was sentenced.

Photo of Dr Norman Godman Dr Norman Godman , Greenock and Port Glasgow

Does the Minister agree that no soldier, following his conviction and imprisonment for murder, should be allowed to rejoin his regiment? Should not such a soldier, having been convicted of murder, at least be discharged with ignominy in addition to being imprisoned?

Photo of Mr John Wheeler Mr John Wheeler , Westminster North

I cannot agree. All cases must be dealt with on their merits. It is a matter of justice that the individual should be considered by the Army authorities in the proper way, in accordance with the circumstances of the case.