Government Announces Review Of Military Justice System

There have been calls for the court martial system to be altered to be like the civil courts, where most serious cases are overseen by a...

The government has announced an independent review of the British military justice system is to be conducted.

The Conservative administration said the review is to be carried out to ensure the system “was effective as it can be for the 21st century”.

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

Now, there are also calls for the court martial system to be brought in line with the civil courts. This would entail serious cases, such as rape and murder, to be tried by a jury and overseen by a judge.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Conservative 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."

Annabel Goldie MSP speaking at the annual Scottish Conservative conference
Picture: PA // Baroness Annabel Goldie

Opposition spokesman Lord Tunnicliffe commented on the matter saying:

"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 added: "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 went on to say 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".

Several years ago, the Court of Appeal ruled that a court martial conviction by majority neither not inherently unsafe or in breach of human rights. This was after worries that the majority ruling broke Article 6 of the European Court of Human Rights, which provides the right to a fair trial.