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Private Michael Jeffries

Volume 981: debated on Monday 17 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Defence, in the case of the life sentence passed on Private Michael Jeffries by a military court at Bielefeld,

The tables below set out the number of persons detained at Castlereagh under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978 and the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976 in each of the last 26 months and the number of such persons charged with a criminal offence as a result. It is not possible without disproportionate expense to state the number of such persons convicted by the courts. Furthermore, some of those charged have not yet come to trial.West Germany on 5 February, why it took five months to bring the defendant to trial; what facilities were available to his relatives, comrades, and to civilians of British or German nationality to visit him and how it was brought to their knowledge that they could do so; what facilities he had for the preparation of his defence; whether he defended himself, and, if so, who was detailed as accused's friend, or, if he had counsel, whether counsel was qualified to plead in the English courts of justice under English law.

Just over four months elapsed between the tragic incident on the night of 29 September 1979, following which Private Michael Jeffries was charged with murder and attempted murder, and the start of his trial on 5 February 1980. The trial was delayed into the new year because of the request by the defending counsel for an independent psychiatric report. Private Jeffries' parents in England were kept fully informed of all developments by a representative of his regiment. Prisoners may be visited by their relatives, comrades and friends of whatever nationality but no applications for such facilities were received by the commanding officer. A regimental officer was appointed from the outset to advise Private Jeffries, who was granted Army legal aid. The defence was conducted by an English solicitor and a Queen's Counsel qualified to plead in the English courts under English law.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence, in the case of Private Michael Jeffries, convicted by a military court at Bielefeld on 5 February, whether the prosecutor was qualified in law; whether a judge-advocate was present to advise the court on law and procedure, and, if so, if he was a member of the English Bar; what facilities were given to the defendant's relatives, the public generally and to his comrades to attend the hearing; whether the court or a court-martial was held under the Army Act 1955; what was the legal minimum of members for the court; whether this was exceeded and, if so, why; what was the composition of the Bench as between civilians and commissioned officers; and what was the rank of the commissioned officers.

The prosecution at the trial of Private Michael Jeffries was conducted by a qualified solicitor and a barrister, both members of the Army Legal Corps, in the presence of the Vice Judge Advocate General who is a member of the English Bar. Private Jeffries' family was informed of events, and members of the press and the public were notified of the date and place of the trial by notices posted outside the barracks. Members of the British press attended the trial. The general court-martial was convened under the terms of the Army Act 1955 and comprised a president of the rank of brigadier and six members of the rank of major. A president and four members would suffice but, as is often the practice, extra members were appointed to ensure that the number did not subsequently fall below the legal minimum for any reason.

asked the Secretary of State for Defence, whether Private Michael Jeffries, sentenced by a military court at Bielefeld on 5 February, has a right of appeal, and, if so, to what court; what is the time limit for lodging the appeal; and what legal counsel is available to him.

Private Jeffries may petition the military reviewing authority against both the finding and sentence of the court within six months of the date of promulgation, which was 27 February 1980. Alternatively, he may similarly petition the Army Board of the Defence Council within 60 days of the date of promulgation. If such a petition were rejected by the Army Board, Private Jeffries would be able to apply to the Registrar of the Courts-Martial Appeal Court for leave to appeal against the finding only, within 28 days from the date he was notified of the Army Board's decision; or if that were not reached within 60 days of the petition being submitted, immediately thereafter. If the full court rejects the appeal, and leave is given, an appeal may go to the House of Lords.The legal aid already granted to Private Jeffries for his trial would extend to any preparation of a petition to the Army Board and to the completion of the application form to the Registrar of the Courts-Martial Appeal Court. Further legal aid may be granted as appropriate.