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Courts-Martial

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 24 April 1951

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31.

asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in future cases of courts-martial held abroad and which are of public interest, he will, when the finding is announced, cause to be published a brief statement of the charges and of the evidence given in each case.

The proceedings of all courts-martial take place normally in open court. The Press are represented at important hearings and have every opportunity of giving an accurate report of the proceedings, including the charges and the evidence given in each case.

Is the right hon. Gentleman able to say that there was, in fact, any Press representative present at this particular trial of Driver Fargie? Would it not be very much better that the evidence given in open court should be published and the charge published than that all kinds of false reports and rumours should get about which did much harm to discipline and which are altogether to be deprecated?

Yes, Sir. I am informed that the Press was fully represented at the time, and, for reasons that I have already given to the House, I think it would be quite wrong for the War Office or for authorities of any kind to try to feed the Press with a particular version of a trial. What we can do is to give the Press the fullest access to the reporting of a trial. I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Member and sympathise very strongly with his contention that it is most important that these trials should be carefully and soberly reported.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that potted official versions of court-martial and other court proceedings are quite likely to be misleading and dangerous?