THE ADMINISTRATION OF DISCIPLINE BY THE ENGLISH IS VERY RIGID ». BRITISH MILITARY LAW AND THE DEATH PENALTY (1868-1918)
The 1876 version outlined a number of military offences for which the death penalty could be applied. These included mutiny, sedition, desertion, cowardice, sleeping at or leaving a post, striking or using violence towards a superior officer and disobedience42. It also established rules for the constitution of courts-martial and laid down procedures for the execution of sentences. The power of any court-martial to inflict corporal punishments was retained43, but only during times of war and with an upper limit of fifty lashes44. Such a sentence could be commuted to not more than forty-two days imprisonment or twenty days and twenty-five lashes45. Clearly corporal punishment continued to be considered an essential element in the maintenance of military discipline.
46 Mutiny Act, Section 8.
The legislators had recognised that special powers were required in times of war and special provision was also included with regard to the death penalty. Only the highest form of court – the General Court-Martial – was granted the power to impose a sentence of death. This type of court was constituted of no fewer than nine commissioned officers (no upper limit), at least two-thirds of whom had to concur for a sentence of death to be lawful46. Provision was made for these powers to be transferred to a Detachment General Court-Martial during wartime with a reduced constitution of at least three commissioned officers. To avoid any political involvement sentences had to be confirmed by the Monarch or, during active service, the Commander-in-Chief. There remained no right of appeal and, therefore, no appeal court.