The latest sexual offences statistics from Defence – what do they tell us

28th Mar 2024

On 28 March 2024 the Ministry of Defence statistics for ‘Murder Manslaughter and Sexual Offences’ in the Service Justice System.

Some initial observations:

Rape cases at Court Martial continue to do very badly, when compared with rape cases at civilian Crown Courts.  Last year, independent research from UCL showed that rape cases that go to trial at Crown Court are much more likely than not to result in a conviction – in 2021, 75% of all civil rape cases that got to Crown Court resulted in a Guilty verdict. In the Court Martial, the figures are much, much lower – and these latest statistics offer more of the same bad news. They show that just 27% of rape cases that got to Court Martial resulted in a Guilty verdict.  It seems that military boards (the Service Justice System’s equivalent of a jury) still do not want to convict male service personnel of rape.

There remain a significant number of defendants being investigated and prosecuted for domestic abuse offences. A new protocol on how offences alleged to have taken place in a military context was published last year and set down a list of criteria that would all but require domestic abuse cases to be handled in the civilian justice system, not the military system. This important change reflects the fact that there are serious limitations in the powers available to the military authorities to deal with domestic abuse and the risks posed by abusers. Perhaps these statistics are simply old cases working their way through the system. It will be important to keep an eye on this.

The number of sexual offences being dealt with in the Service Justice System is down from last year. That is probably a consequence of the fact that service personnel are now required as a matter of policy to be informed of their right to report sexual offences to the civilian police. That policy change was brought in following a judicial review brought by 3 military rape survivors, and there has generally been growing awareness of this issue in the last few years, particularly following the Defence Committee Inquiry into Women in the Armed Forces report and recommendations on this issue.  That may be a good sign.


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