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Scotland Yard detectives arresting soldiers in France?


Moonraker
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How would a soldier serving in France be arrested for a civilian offence in London?

In A Bespoke Murder by Edward Marston and set in May 1915, two soldiers rape a girl in London after telling her that they're sailing for France the next day – and calling each other by their names. Two Scotland Yard detectives determine that only one unit embarked that day and from the sailing list are able to identify two suspects. After some resistance, the War Office authorises the detectives' sailing for France with arrest warrants. At the unit HQ they meet resistance from the men's officers, who argue that the detectives have no jurisdiction, the suspects are needed for the imminent battle and that "they are brave soldiers acting out of patriotic impulse" (mitigation that was sometimes volunteered by magistrates when sentencing in British court cases).

How likely would this have been in real life? Would detectives really travel to France to arrest soldier suspects – or would the matter have been handled by the military?

Moonraker

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I have personal knowledge, in more recent conflicts, of police officers having servicemen returned from war zones, Afghanistan being the latest. I don't see why it wouldn't have been done in WW1.

Trev

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Certainly police officers, having investigated a crime and identified suspects, would be instrumental in "having servicemen returned from war zones". But, as John implies and I suspect, it would perhaps be unlikely that civilian policemen would then travel overseas to make the arrests, rather than asking the military authorities to apprehend the men and return them to London under escort.

Had this happened in A Bespoke Murder, I suspect that the men's officers would have been very slow to respond, with the suspects being badly needed in the Front Line.

Moonraker

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Moonraker,

Sorry, I should have expanded post #3. I know of one incident, which was a very serious crime, where detectives flew to Afghanistan to interview service personnel, in company with MOD CID officers.

Trev

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A bit of digging in the newspaper archives shows that men were frequently 'brought back from France' to face trial in civilian courts, usually for offences committed prior to conscription, or such crimes as bigamy for which I assume there is no equivalency under military law. One incident was a manslaughter charge following a drunken joyride where the driver joined the ASC and appeared in court in uniform.

One judge took exception to an application that a man should be allowed to remain in France and said if he did not appear in front of him he should be 'brought back' following the 'usual steps'. Frustratingly that assumes there was a procedure for the civil police to 'bring back' serving soldiers to face justice in the civil courts but what the process was remain a mystery, for now!

In the event at his trial it was reported his escort, a Birmingham police officer gave evidence of good character. He was bound over and presumably sent back to the fray. The soldier was William Kobabe ASC.

The only reference I found to 'arrested in France' was a Clarence Liddon, serving in the ASC who was put on trial for offences committed when employed as a stockbrokers clerk. It does not say who took him into custody. All these example were the ASC but I'm not sure if that was significant, it may be it was quicker for them to get to France than an infantry recruit.

I also found an interesting response to 'Anxious Reader' that a soldier could not be brought back from France for debt!

I know Scotland Yard officers were deployed to Calais but heir duties were mainly counter espionage, but they would be a convenient liaison for such instances. I doubt there actual powers of arrest extended to France but from the above examples it seems they were escorted in custody when 'brought back'

Ken

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