Briefing on the Armed Forces Bill

The Armed Forces Bill 2021 contains important proposed changes to the service justice system and the service complaints system. Our detailed briefing is here:

FINAL CMJ Briefing on the Armed Forces Bill

Our summary briefing for the Lords is here: CMJ briefing for Lords Committee stage

The Bill presents a vital opportunity to ensure that serious criminal cases such as murder, manslaughter and rape, where they occur in the UK, are tried in the civil justice system, not the service justice system. This was the recommendation of an independent review by a senior judge and former chief constable (‘the Lyons Review’) in early 2020 – however the Ministry of Defence rejected the recommendation. Following litigation brought by 3 rape serving rape survivors, the MoD agreed to place the system for deciding which jurisdiction should apply on a statutory footing, to review all its policies and guidance on the handling fo sexual offences and to consult the public – but the clause as drafted is a blank canvas and does not address the fundamental issue. It must be amended so that the most serious cases are presumed to be dealt with in the civil justice system, other than in exceptional circumstances.

The Bill also contains a clause that would significantly reduce service personnel’s appeal rights in the statutory service complaints process, with serious implications for their right to bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal. This clause must be removed.

These issues have been the subject of evidence sessions by our Director before both the Defence Committee Inquiry into Women in the Armed Forces here:

and before the Armed Forces Bill Committee here:

For access to all of the relevant evidence before the Committee including written transcripts of evidence, the Armed Forces Bill Committee website is here:

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