Background. Under the Armed Forces Acts 2006 and 2011, Commanding Officers can conduct 'summary hearings' to decide on criminal charges against their subordinates. Subordinates have the right to elect for court martial, but most appear not to do so. Subordinates may be geographically isolated and unable to see a solicitor, let alone pay for legal advice. The only source of advice provided to subordinates is an Assisting Officer who usually works for the Commanding Officer (who is in effect both the prosecutor and the judge). A conviction by a Commanding Officer is identical in its effects to that of conviction by a normal criminal court: fines, imprisonment, and a criminal record which may, for example, block soldiers from receiving British citizenship.
For example, as Channel 4 News reported on, inter alia, 26 Jul12, ‘Under current rules Foreign and Commonwealth troops can claim British citizenship after four years of military service. But a new law, which appears to be increasingly used against foreign soldiers who have been disciplined at commanding officer level, is leaving them without basic rights or status. Foreign and Commonwealth soldiers who are dealt with summarily for minor charges while serving are finding that when they leave the Armed Forces those misdemeanours are being treated as civil crimes. Having a criminal record then precludes them from getting citizenship or legal right to remain in the UK. Once identified as "illegals" they become subject to deportation.’
As one solider in that report stated, “They sent me back while my scars were still open. I was in the Army you know, so whatever they say, you will follow. I don't really complain a lot. I just do it.” Private Epeli 'Pex' Uluilakeba’
Further to s1(1) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000:
a. What legal advice is provided at public cost to subordinates being charged with an offence under the summary hearing system?
b. What mandatory training is provided to Assisting Officers, recognising that they are usually the sole source of advice provided by the Army for subordinates being charged with an offence under the summary hearing system?
c. What guarantees are Assisting Officers given that they will not be penalised for acting in accordance with the law, and in the interests of justice and their consciences, even if so doing inconveniences the chain of command, and that their actions and decisions when acting as Assisting Officers will not be used in appraisal reports and promotion recommendations? (In other words, similar to the so-called "Morris direction" given to board members in courts martial - following Morris v UK  ECHR 162 (26 Feb 02)).
d. How many summary hearings (at all levels: sub-unit, unit and formation) were conducted in each of the years 2000-2011? For each year, please break down the number of hearings by service, and rank range (Army ranks listed for ease): Junior Non-Commissioned Officers (Pte-Cpl), Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (Sgt-WO1), Junior Officers (2Lt-Capt), Field Officers (defined for these purposes as Maj-Col), and General Officers (defined for these purposes as Brig-Gen).
(1) For each year, and in each rank range, how many defendants pled 'Not Guilty', and how many pled 'Guilty'?
(2) For each year, and in each rank range, of those defendants who pled 'Not Guilty', how many were convicted?
(3) For each year, and in each rank range, of those defendants who pled 'Not Guilty', and were convicted, how many subsequently appealed to the Summary Appeals Court?
(4) For each year, and in each rank range, of those defendants who pled 'Not Guilty', were convicted, and subsequently appealed to the Summary Appeals Court, how many were acquitted, or had their sentence reduced (please articulate each category separately)?
My preferred format to receive this information is by electronic means. If one part of this request can be answered sooner than others, please send that information first followed by any subsequent data. If you need any clarification of this request please feel free to email me. If FOI requests of a similar nature have already been asked could you please include your responses to those requests.
I note that under s16 of the Act, it is the MOD's duty to provide advice and assistance, so far as it would be reasonable to expect the authority to do so, to persons who make requests for information to it. Accordingly, if the MOD considers attempting to block release of information under s12 of the Act (exemption where cost of compliance exceeds appropriate limit), please a) provide a breakdown of costs, and b) explain what information *would* be releasable within the appropriate limit according to the department's purported calculations. I would, in that situation, apply for internal review, and ultimately apply for decision by the Information Commissioner, per s50 of the Act.
I would be grateful if you could confirm in writing that you have received this request, and I look forward to hearing from you within the 20-working day statutory time period.
To clarify, my reference for this request is: LSM/FOI/120909/04. Apologies for the omission originally. Many thanks.
Please see attached a reply to recent Freedom of Information Act Requests.
Army Headquarters | IDL 24 | Blenheim Building | Marlborough Lines |
ANDOVER | SP11 8HJ
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