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Government announces review of military justice system

The Tory administration said the move was aimed to ensure the system “was effective as it can be for the 21st century”.

An independent review of the British military justice system, including the controversial use of majority verdicts in courts martial, is to be carried out, the Government has announced.

The Tory administration said the move was aimed to ensure the system “was effective as it can be for the 21st century”.

It follows calls for the court martial system to be brought into line with the civil courts, with the right for the most serious cases, such as rape and murder, to be tried by a jury and overseen by a judge.

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Baroness Goldie said the service justice system was capable of dealing with more serious offences (David Cheskin/PA)

Concerns have been raised over the use of majority verdicts at court martial hearings.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Tory frontbencher Baroness Goldie said: “The Armed Forces Act 2006 is kept under regular review and the last two Armed Forces Acts of 2011 and 2016 in renewing those provisions have made modest changes.

“In preparation for the next Armed Forces Bill in 2020, the Government has decided that the time is now right for an independent and more in-depth look at the service justice system so that we can be assured the system is as effective as it can be for the 21st century.”

Labour peer Lord Morris of Aberavon said: “Should not the court martial system be brought into line with the civil courts giving the right in serious cases such as murder and rape, to be tried by jury with a judge appointed by the Lord Chief Justice, replacing the present hierarchical court system with bare verdict majorities, the size of which is secret and criticised by the Judge Advocate General?”

Lady Goldie said the service justice system was capable of dealing with more serious offences.

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Lord Tunnicliffe said he felt uncomfortable very serious offence like murder would not be tried by a jury (Ian Nicholson/PA)

She said: “We are keen for the review to take a strategic look at all key aspects of the service justice system and this is one of the issues to be explored.”

She added that the Government recognised there were “differing views” about the system of majority verdicts and this “was one of the issues which will be covered by the review”.

Opposition spokesman Lord Tunnicliffe: “I think the concept of a very serious offence like murder not being tried by a jury makes many of us uncomfortable.”

He also called for the review to take account of the “particular problems” of the boundary between murder and soldiers lawfully killing the enemy.

Lady Goldie said the consultation would not be public, but this did not prevent interested parties making representations to the Government.

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