Military magistrates' courts
L Mowday made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Y Weinyddiaeth Amddiffyn
This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.
Dear Ministry of Defence,
During the drafting of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (AFA 06), personnel within the then HQ Land Forces (now Army HQ), including those in the Office for Casework Standards (Army) (OSC(A)), prepared a number of papers positing alternatives to the Summary Hearings system, including the creation of special 'military magistrates' courts'. In other words, these new courts would replace Summary Hearings: 'one-man tribunals' in which commanders without legal qualifications act as CO, prosecutor, judge, jury, and sentencing judge.
Please release all documents regarding alternatives to the Summary Hearing system, particularly those prepared during the drafting of AFA 06.
Please see attached letter in respect of your request for information to
the Ministry of Defence.
Dear LF-Sec-&Group (MULTIUSER),
Thank you for your clarification request. I am requesting all documents that conform to the following criteria:
1. Timings. Prepared during the drafting of the Armed Forces Act 2006 (AFA 06) - i.e. within the date range 2003 to 2006, inclusive; and -
2. Origin. Were worked on by personnel within the then HQ Land Forces (now Army HQ), including those in the Office for Casework Standards (Army) (OSC(A)); and -
3. Subject. The topic of which was alternatives to the Summary
For the avoidance of doubt, this request concerns Army HQ and Centre TLB (e.g. DCDS(Pers) et al) alone - it excludes any material generated by Navy Command/Fleet and Air Command/STC.
Feel free to come back to me if you have any further queries.
Dear Ministry of Defence,
Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.
I am writing to request an internal review of Ministry of Defence's handling of my FOI request 'Military magistrates' courts'.
Army sources have indicated that there are a handful of documents authored by the Office for Casework Standards (Army) evaluating the options for replacing the Summary Hearings system with so-called 'military magistrates'. Army HQ appear determined to suppress these documents - we consider that this refusal is unlawful.
Please conduct an internal review, and ensure that a named individual takes personal responsibility for this refusal to release the information, following which we will proceed with, inter alia, an ICO complaint.
A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:
Dear L Mowday,
Acknowledgement of Request for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
I acknowledge your email of 1 May 2013 in which you requested an
internal review of your request for information under the FOIA, dealt
with by Land Forces Secretariat, our reference 06-03-2013-152910-003.
The Department's target for completing internal reviews is 20 working
days and we therefore aim to complete the review and respond to you by
31 May 2013. While we are working hard to achieve this, in the interests
of providing you with a realistic indication of when you should expect a
response, I should advise that the majority are currently taking between
20 and 40 working days to complete.
The review will involve a full, independent reconsideration of the
handling of the case as well as the final decision.
Ms Usha Sondhi
Ms Usha Sondhi | MOD Information Rights Compliance Team | CIO-SPP-IR
Comp2 | 01.N.16 MOD Main Building | Whitehall | London SW1A 2HB
Thank you for your email. I note that the MOD has failed to supply the requested information, and has now been pursuing what we consider to be a deliberate attempt to suppress information since 17 Feb 13. We believe that the department is knowingly, deliberately, and repeatedly breaking the law by refusing to comply with the Freedom of Information Act 2000. We consider that responsibility for this lies with Mark Francois MP, currently MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, and Minister of State for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans.
Speaking at the Liberty Annual General Meeting on 18 May 13, Joanna Lumley recounted her experiences of the campaign to reform the treatment of Gurkha soldiers by the MOD. She emphasised the importance of holding named individuals within the government to account, and her successful defeat of MOD/Home Office policy which was defended by Phil Woolas,* the then Immigration Minister - see http://j.mp/LumleyvWoolasVideo. (* Subsequently barred from parliament by the High Court, in an unrelated case)
Amongst Mr Francois's pattern of disingenuous and possibly dishonest behaviour is his attempt to apparently mislead parliament early this year. Gemma Doyle MP recently warned: "On 31 January, we held a Westminster Hall debate on the military justice system, and I hope the Minister will review the remarks he made in that debate. I am concerned that he may have inadvertently overstated the powers being given to the Service Complaints Commissioner. Could he confirm that it is his intention that the commissioner should have all the powers he outlined in that debate, and does he therefore agree that it is time for an ombudsman?"
Hansard, 15 Apr 2013 : Column 11 http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...
Having attended that Westminster Hall debate, we consider that Ms Doyle's criticism is entirely warranted, with Mr Francois as a government minister apparently little more than a mouthpiece for Army HQ. Nonetheless, please ensure that Mr Francois personally approves any attempt to further suppress this information, as he will be held accountable for his decision later this year.
In seeking to hold to account the individuals responsible for the MOD's suppression of the information we have requested, it is disappointing to find civil servants implicated alongside Mark Francois MP. The civil servants apparently implicated in the suppression of information are the Command Secretary at Army HQ, Ms Belinda Vern, and her deputy, Mr Daren Gregg. Ms Vern is already implicated in a criminal complaint (Harassment) in that she authorised what we consider to be a dishonest background note to a parliamentary question answer dated 24 Nov 11. Mark Connolly, the civil servant responsible for what we consider to be that dishonest background note, is currently a respondent in a complaint, and potentially the subject of action in both civil and criminal proceedings. We reserve the right to publish this - and other - information in due course, but wish to give the department as much opportunity as possible to demonstrate its competence and its integrity, and that of its ministers and staff. In that light, and for the benefit of Ms Vern, Mr Gregg, and any other civil servants who may be tempted to continue to suppress this information, your attention is drawn to the requirements of the civil service code:
"The Civil Service Code, which forms part of the terms and conditions of every civil servant, was first introduced by the Cabinet Office in 1996. It was reviewed after ten years and a new Code was issued in June 2006. There was a further minor revision in 2010 to reflect the provisions of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010...).
The Civil Service Code outlines the core values of the Civil Service:
- Integrity – putting the obligations of public service above personal interests.
- Honesty – being truthful and open.
- Objectivity – basing advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence.
- Impartiality – acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving governments of different political parties equally well.
The code requires that civil servants comply with the following standards (excerpts from full code at http://resources.civilservice.gov.uk/wp-...
Integrity. You must:
• Fulfil your duties and obligations responsibly;
• Always act in a way that is professional and that deserves and retains the confidence of all those with whom you have dealings
• Deal with the public and their affairs fairly, efficiently, promptly, effectively and sensitively, to the best of your ability;
• Keep accurate official records and handle information as openly as possible within the legal framework; and
• Comply with the law and uphold the administration of justice.
Honesty. You must:
• Set out the facts and relevant issues truthfully, and correct any errors as soon as possible.
You must not:
• deceive or knowingly mislead Ministers, Parliament or others; or
• be influenced by improper pressures from others.
Objectivity. You must not ignore inconvenient facts or relevant considerations when providing advice or making decisions.
Impartiality. You must not act in a way that unjustifiably favours or discriminates against particular individuals or interests."
You should seek legal advice if your superiors within the MOD pressure you to suppress information. You should note that this website is publicly-accessible, including by the press and media, and that your continued non-compliance may, in due course, be noted and reported upon by them. It is in your interests that your actions are, and remain, lawful and publicly defensible.
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