UK

Review Launched To Offer 'Greater Certainty' Around Allegations

The MOD says it hopes the judge-led review will ensure allegations are handled quickly, as well as reassuring victims and personnel.

The Defence Secretary says a new judge-led review into how allegations are handled will provide "greater certainty" to both service personnel on overseas operations and victims.

Ben Wallace stated that it will "future-proof" investigations, with the aim of ensuring policy is appropriate for investigating allegations made regarding overseas operations.

It will also seek to make sure "we have the most up-to-date and future-proof framework, skills and processes in place and can make improvements where necessary".

A retired judge will oversee the review, which the Ministry of Defence (MOD) hopes will guarantee allegations are handled quickly, as well as reassuring victims and personnel involved.

The review will begin in the next few months and will consider whether the necessary skills and processes are in place for all elements of the investigative process, from allegations through to prosecutions, and also whether there is enough cooperation between independent investigators and prosecutors to increase the speed of decision-making.

The review is designed to look at how processes can be improved, rather than taking into account previous investigations, cases or decisions.

Mr Wallace said it will run "in tandem" with reforms put forward under the Overseas Operations Bill, which was approved during a second reading in the House of Commons last month.

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"Nobody wants to see service personnel subjected to drawn-out investigations, only for the allegations to prove to be false or unfounded," the Defence Secretary said.

"At the same time, credible allegations against those who fall short of our high standards must be investigated quickly and efficiently.

"This review, which will run in tandem with our Overseas Operations Bill and build on the recommendations of the Service Justice System Review, will help future-proof investigations and provide greater certainty to both victims and service personnel."

Results of the review are expected by July 2021.

Recommendations from the review will build on existing measures to improve the efficiency of Service Police investigations following the Service Justice System Review, conducted by HH Shaun Lyons and Sir John Murphy and published earlier this year, the MOD said.

Following the announcement of the new judge-led review, Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said: "It is hard to take the Defence Secretary seriously.

"Over the last five years, the Government has done four reviews with almost 100 recommendations on Armed Forces investigations and prosecutions.

"Faced with growing criticism of their Overseas Operations Bill, the Government has launched another review rather than rethinking the legislation.

"Ministers should instead work with Labour, and organisations including the British Legion and Liberty, to improve the Bill so it better protects British troops and our reputation for adhering to international law."