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Handcuffing Soldiers

Volume 65: debated on Tuesday 28 July 1914

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is now aware that just lately five young soldiers were taken by train, chained together like convicts, in charge of one police sergeant and a policeman, although their only crime was being absent from camp for a few days; whether this is a usual practice; and whether he can see his way to have this practice done away with?

I have made inquiry in this matter and find that the circumstances were such that the police officers responsible for these prisoners' safe custody were justified in considering that the use of handcuffs was necessary. The police are anxious to show all possible consideration to deserters in their custody, but their primary duty is to prevent the deserter repeating his offence, and in such cases as the one now in question it may not be possible to ensure this except by the use of handcuffs.

Can the right hon. Gentleman justify the action of the police in treating in this manner soldiers who have committed no serious crime at all? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that such a practice is very bad for recruiting, and that my attention has been drawn to this by the officer from whom I got the information?

I am not aware of the last matter mentioned by the hon. Member, but, as I am informed, the soldiers in question, or some of them, had stated their intention of deserting again, and it was in order to prevent them from running away that while they were being conveyed in custody they were handcuffed.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if there had been more policemen available it would have been quite easy to convey these men without chaining them together; and is he aware that the fact is that the police did not want the trouble of going in larger numbers?

I am unable to answer that point. The hon. Member must not suppose that this matter had anything to do with the Metropolitan Police.

Does the right hon. Gentleman associate himself with the action of his subordinate officers?

These five young soldiers were actually handcuffed on one chain—they were all chained together one by one. Surely it is not possible that they were on a long chain like convicts?

As I am informed, there were only a sergeant and a police constable in charge of five soldiers who had deserted, and the soldiers stated their intention of running away again.

All or some. The officers, being alone, were quite aware that the soldiers would have an opportunity at the railway station of deserting, and they handcuffed the soldiers.

Is not this serious enough to render it necessary that the right hon. Gentleman should make further inquiries with a view of preventing a similar practice in future?

The right hon. Gentleman has fallen into the error of assuming that I had some responsibility in the matter. It was done by the local police, and not by the Home Office.

Has the right hon. Gentleman no means of using his influence with the local police?

Is it not the case that questions relating to the administration of purely local police have been constantly refused in this House?

There is nothing in the question to show where this occurred. If I had known that it was a matter of purely local administration of course I would not have allowed the question.