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Armageddon or Calvary: The Conscientious Objectors of New Zealand and "The Process of Their Conversion"

XIX.—Differentiated Sentences

page 107

XIX.—Differentiated Sentences.

The contrast in the sentences awarded the Conscientious Objectors is most marked. For practically the same "offence" men received sentences which ranged from seven days' detention in the barracks to two years' hard labour in the common jail.

This differentiation is conspicuous even in the cases of members of the same family. The sentences inflicted on the Baxter brothers furnish an illustration. The weight of the military law fell on this family with unabated relentlessness. There were seven sons in the family, one of whom is married and has four children, and, therefore, did not come within the scope of the Military Service Act during the war period. The six other sons, who are Passive Objectors, were all seized by the military authorities. Three of them were three times sentenced in New Zealand (28 days' detention, 84 days' civil prison, 28 days' detention) and then deported; the other three were jailed. The brothers were practical farmers, but the military left the aged parents without a son to work the little farm. The father is an old man, crippled with rheumatism; the mother is nearly seventy years of age. After the first three had been forcibly transported, two of the remaining three (Donald and Hugh) were called in the same ballot, arrested on the same day, tried by courtmartial on the same charge, and sentenced on the same day each to 11 months' hard labour. Hugh was sent to Waimarino, Donald to Templeton Prison. When Hugh had served his 11 months he was released and returned to his home, but Donald was ordered into camp, and, on again refusing, was sentenced to two years' hard labour. Another brother, William, was arrested a few months later, was sentenced to 11 months' hard labour, which sentence he served, and was then released. So that Donald was penalised to the extent of nearly three years' imprisonment with hard labour, whilst his two brothers, for the same offence, were only required to serve 11 months. Hugh, after his release, died of influenza. Through someone's carelessness, the military law pursued him past the grave; and in due time his name appeared in the "Gazette" as a defaulter who was to be deprived of all civil rights for ten years. Donald is still in prison, but William is free.

The Codys are another family doomed to be broken up and threatened with ruin by the Military Service Act. They are also a family of farmers, and are Irish Objectors. There are five sons, all of whom were called up under Section 35 of the Act, with the result that three were ordered into camp. They refused to obey the order, and the two other brothers were thereupon seized by the military and sent to prison upon refusing to undertake military service. The aged father was left to work a large and heavily-mortgaged holding without the assistance of any of his sons. P. Cody served a sentence page 108of 11 months, and has not since been re-sentenced. Jack Cody, who was first arrested in July of 1917, is at present serving his fourth sentence (including that in the detention barracks). Lawrence Cody served a sentence of 11 months, and was then given an additional two years' hard labour, which he is now serving. Michael Cody was arrested on August 3, 1918; served a sentence of three months at Mount Cook; was held 56 days awaiting courtmartial; and is now serving two years' hard labour, which sentence will not be completed until the end of July, 1920.

Another case in point is that of the three Wright brothers (Religious Objectors), of Auckland. One served 11 months, and was released; another served 11 months, and was then sentenced to two years' hard labour. The third, a Second Division man, was ordered into camp, but peace being proclaimed, he was not required, and so escaped either military service or prison.

David Williams (Irish Objector) served 84 days in the civil prison, was then ordered into camp, and on again refusing service, was sentenced to 11 months. On the completion of this sentence he was again ordered to take the uniform, and on refusing the third time was sentenced to two years. He is still in prison.

Rhys Morrish (Unitarian) served 84 days, after which he was sentenced to 11 months, and was then given a third sentence of two years' hard labour, which he is still serving.

C. A. Watson, teacher, was sentenced to 11 months' imprisonment without hard labour, on account of being classed C1 and considered unfit; and, after serving this sentence, was re-sentenced to two years—with hard labour.

Kenneway Henderson, artist, Tolstoyan, and anti-militarist for more than 14 years, was "reluctantly" sentenced by courtmartial to nine months' hard labour. When this sentence was completed, he was allowed to go free for six weeks while peace negotiations were proceeding; and was then re-arrested and sentenced to two years' hard labour.

A letter from a C.O. in Waikeria (l/12/18) says: "Our sentences have been varied. There are some C.O.'s doing their third term, and some their first. Some are doing two years, others 11 months' Two of the 11 months' men go out the second week in January next, and others who came here about the same time don't go out until January, 1920—and all are in for the same offence."

Yet another anomaly arises out of the ending of the war. Those Conscientious Objectors whose sentences expired after the Armistice was signed were not re-arrested, while others whose sentences expired just a short time before that date were re-sentenced.—generally to two years' hard labour. In this connection, it has previously been pointed out that "the matter of time (which is out of every man's control) and not the nature of the offence became the deciding factor as to whether a man was to enjoy freedom or be locked in prison walls."