New investigative unit launched to handle serious criminal offences across defence

A new tri-service and independent body has been launched to investigate criminal offences within the Armed Forces, including rape and sexual assault.

The Defence Serious Crime Unit (DSCU) has the jurisdiction to investigate the most serious crimes alleged to have been committed by persons subject to service law in both the UK and overseas.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the unit is a "step change to improving the quality and capability of the Armed Forces to investigate serious crimes".

"Fully independent, it will create a critical mass of experience and personnel to ensure our investigations are thorough, high quality and timely."

It was announced last year that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) would establish the DSCU following recommendations from a judge-led review.

The probe, led by Sir Richard Henriques and commissioned by Mr Wallace, was launched to examine how the military deals with allegations of serious criminal wrongdoing.

Based in Southwick Park in Hampshire, the DSCU replaces the existing Special Investigation Branches (SIB) and is part of defence's plans to reform the Service Justice System.

The Ministry of Defence said it has implemented recommended changes to improve the experience for victims who will be "at the heart of the investigative process".

The new unit will deliver a more effective policing service staffed by officers trained to the same standard as their civilian counterparts, the MOD said.

Lieutenant General James Swift, Chief of Defence People said: "All members of the Armed Forces should have the confidence to report a crime and know that it will be fully investigated.

"The Defence Serious Crime Unit becoming operational today will be completely independent of the Chain of Command.

"This will give our servicemen and women reassurance that their concerns will be taken seriously, investigated independently and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Colonel Mark John, Provost Marshal (Serious Crime), said: "This marks a significant improvement for Defence Policing and an opportunity we have seized.

"We have taken on board key learnings, best practice and insight from civilian police forces to ensure that victims are central to the investigation. We will continue to work closely with a wide array of partners to maximise the effectiveness of this unit."

The DSCU operates as part of the Defence Serious Crime Command (DSCC) which was established in April this year.

A new Victim and Witness Care Unit (VWCU) is also being set up which the MOD says will "ensure victim care is central to every stage of the investigative and judicial process".

It is due to be fully operational in early 2023.