Court offers hope to family of soldier shot for cowardice

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Private Harry Farr was executed after he refused to return to the trenches of the Western Front in 1916. The 25-year-old soldier had been in hospital for five months with shellshock and had been serving in France for almost two years without any leave when he was convicted.

His family have repeatedly failed in their attempt to have him posthumously pardoned on the grounds that he was suffering from severe mental stress at the time. In the High Court yesterday, they were offered a glimmer of hope.

Lawyers acting for the Defence Secretary, John Reid, were granted an adjournment in the case in order to consider "new grounds" for agreeing to posthumously commute Private Farr's death sentence to a lesser sanction.

Mr Reid was keeping "an open mind" about the case and would listen to representations from Private Farr's surviving family, the court was told. It was the first time that the Defence Secretary has indicated that Private Farr should not have been executed.

Last year, he refused the soldier a full pardon, a decision which was upheld by the High Court, although the family were granted leave to challenge the refusal to grant a conditional pardon.

Private Farr's 92-year-old daughter Gertrude Harris and his granddaughter, Janet Booth, 63, said they believed that the adjournment was a "positive" step towards their 14-year battle for justice.

Mrs Harris said: "I am just pleased with the way it has gone."