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Last Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Minister to reconsider WWI pardon
Private Harry Farr
Private Harry Farr was executed aged 25
Defence Secretary John Reid is to reconsider granting a posthumous pardon to a soldier who was executed during World War I for cowardice.

The Ministry of Defence said he would do so after Private Harry Farr's daughter launched a High Court appeal against an earlier refusal.

Pte Farr, then 25, of Kensington, west London, was shot at dawn in 1916 after refusing to return to the front line.

His family argue he was suffering from shell shock.

In court, the family's solicitor John Dickinson, said Mr Reid was also considering meeting the family.

When asked what she would say to Mr Reid if they met, Pte Farr's daughter Gertrude Harris, 92, said: "I would just like to say: 'Please give him the pardon, just to prove he was not a coward'.

"He was a very brave soldier who died for his country."

It should never have happened and it's never too late to say you're sorry and put things right
Janet Booth
Pte Farr's granddaughter

Pte Farr, who fought with the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, had refused to go back to the front line after spending five months in hospital.

But in February, Mr Reid said there was no conclusive evidence to support the family's belief he was suffering from shell shock.

The family's solicitor, John Dickinson, told the BBC it was right that Mr Reid should reconsider his decision:

"It's certainly unusual but I think there are valid criticisms that can be made for the way in which he reached his most recent decision and I think there's also additional evidence which he can now properly take into account," he said.

Pte Farr's granddaughter, Janet Booth, told BBC Radio Five Live the government should follow the examples of New Zealand, France and Germany, who pardoned soldiers who were shot in the same way.

'Very sympathetic'

She said: "I can't understand why our government won't pardon the men. I know it was a long time ago, but it should never have happened and it's never too late to say you're sorry and put things right.

An MoD spokesman said it would now look at a single document of evidence from the family.

"The points set out in that document will be given full consideration when we receive it," he said.

"We fully understand the family's feelings and we are very sympathetic."

The case will be watched by scores of other families who want to clear the names of British troops executed by firing squads.

However the MoD said there had been no change in policy on granting pardons, but it would "rightly and properly consider what the court has said".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Harry Farr's daughter on her fight to clear her father's name



SEE ALSO:
Battle to clear the 'cowards'
11 Nov 99 |  UK News
No pardon for 'deserters'
24 Jul 98 |  Politics


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