Dear Ministry of Justice,
During the discussions for the implementation of the Armed Forces Act 2006, there was open opposition in the evidence given by (amongst others), Gilbert Blades to the amalgamation of disciplinary charges and criminal charges in HM Forces summary hearings. This is due to the summary hearing not being a fair (HRA98 article 6 compliant) trial. However for operational effectiveness they were ignored.
Summary hearing's have deemed not a fair trial, in a recent report submitted to the Defence Select committee (the recommendations of the report can be found here http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa... ).
The report highlights the fact the overwhelming majority of servicemen elect for a summary hearing (90% conviction rate) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa...
as they are ill informed by service legal advisors as to the consequences of a charge being proven and do not wish to "rock the boat" and elect for court martial (50% conviction rate). In my case I was led to believe my "criminal damage" conviction (a scuff mark on fire door hit by a plastic hoover nozzle) was purely a disciplinary matter (RAF police interview alludes to disciplinary action for criminal damage and being drunk and service disciplinary acts)
https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B5Cec4M... ) despite the contrary claims by the MoD it was certainly not made clear to me it was a criminal conviction. However 2 years after leaving the RAF it had been disclosed on a CRB check. As a criminal conviction for criminal damage.
It would also seem there is tremendous confusion amongst the Army chain of command as to exactly what is a criminal conviction and what is not a criminal conviction. As highlighted by an internal Army memo http://www.channel4.com/news/army-discip...
Recent developments with HM Forces summary hearings have led to UKBA changing immigration law. This was done to allow former servicemen to be exempt from deportation rules. The deportation rules stated that an applicant for residency in the UK must be of good character and have no criminal convictions. In a recent highly publicised case http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/9716785/... Bale Baleiwai originally had a criminal conviction for battery. He was unaware when he pled guilty that his charge was not only disciplinary but would be recorded as a criminal conviction under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
Bale Baleiwai was granted an appeal for his original conviction and was found not guilty on 20 November 2012, which begs the question how did he have a criminal conviction he was unaware of? And why his CO felt the need for criminal proceedings in the first instance if he was not guilty?
Summary hearings are capable of hearing the following charges:-
These are not minor disciplinary offences, and you would hope an individual with a criminal conviction on this list would be aware that they had a criminal conviction. Especially if it is to impact after their service career may have ended.
I have requested the rationale as to why a Commanding Officer should not only to have powers to ensure discipline with service offences, but also act as prosecutor, judge and jury in criminal proceedings. I have additionally questioned the benefit of dragging out criminal proceedings for 7 months with an inevitable guilty finding of £40 stoppage of pay for a scuffed door, rather than choosing a quick non recordable service offence with a more harsh punishment. However the MoD have failed to respond.
Finally, my reasons for exposing this is because I believe it is completely ridiculous that my allegation that my RAF police interview tape has been edited has not been responded to by the MoD. There was sufficient doubt in the authenticity of the interview to open a "master" tape. A sealed "master" tape was opened, however two labels were created to seal the tape https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B5Cec4M... and I therefore believe there are two master tapes. In no correspondence has the MoD addressed the issue, and are filing all correspondence unanswered.
The MoD are able to break the law, under the guise of operational effectiveness, and are beyond scrutiny from any external organisation, and ruin future career aspirations etc without any independent checks or oversight.
Subject to the freedom of information act 2000:-
1)Previous freedom of Information requests on this subject have been responded to as information not held, however these were submitted before the evidence to the Defence select committee was submitted. Now the MoJ is aware that HM Forces summary hearings are not HRA 98 article 6 compliant, can I request any minutes of meetings or correspondence between the MoD on the subject of summary hearings, given the new evidence.
2)Can I request any policy, guidelines, information or documents that MoJ holds specifically for HM Forces summary hearings that you are aware that criminal convictions from this list http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006... have been passed off as only "minor disciplinary" offences by General Mike Jackson and Dr Liam Fox,
http://www.channel4.com/news/ukba-ignore... when pushing UKBA to change its immigration policy. Surely these offences carry the same weight as if they came from a magistrates or crown court?
3)Can I request any policy, guidelines, information or documents that the MoJ holds specifically for HM Forces summary hearings and any assessment on miscarriages of justice there may be? (I happily admit my actions, however a scuffed door would not be replaced for being slightly scuffed outside HM Forces. The service prosecuting authority did not exist at the time of my conviction, the prosecution legal team could heavily be influenced the Commanding Officer who was meant to be the judge. The whole system is fundamentally flawed for a fair trial.
The very fact a serviceman is unaware of a criminal conviction is surely evidence enough that they did not have a fair trial.
4)Can I request any policy, guidelines, information or documents that the MoJ hold on an allegation that Military police interview tapes are being edited and the MoD refuse to acknowledge the complaint and the MoD are beyond external scrutiny by any police force. Is there any recorded information as to why this cannot be investigated?
Although I appreciate it is beyond the scope of the freedom of information act 2000, could you contact the MoD to confirm the information I have provided is accurate and if the MoD intend to continue denying legal advice in police interviews editing them to hide this, or will the MoJ remain complicit in covering this up?
[first name of requester removed] [last name of requester removed]
Dear Mr [last name of requester removed],
Please see the attached response.
Victim and Criminal Proceedings Policy
Justice Reform Directorate
Justice Policy Group
Ministry of Justice
8A Red Core
102 Petty France
Tel: 020 3334 6072
Fax: 020 3334 5518
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