Accused troops face more robust Courts Martial

Discussion in 'Current Affairs, News and Analysis' started by thegimp, Jan 2, 2009.

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  1. I'm not intimate with the ins and outs of service law and procedure. But this article makes me feel very uneasy

    A civvy criminal barrister now in charge of military prosecutions

    His retoric, (especially coming from one who hasn't served) is a bit disturbing

    "In an interview with The Times, Mr Houlder accused soldiers who gave evidence at their court martial of showing loyalty to colleagues rather than to their regiment, meaning that the trial did not establish who was to blame.

    He promised “robust” prosecution of members of the Armed Forces accused of serious crimes"


    I know the CM system isn't perfect, but the guy himself is quoted as saying

    "that the proportion of convictions in courts martial was slightly higher than in civilian trials"

    Feel nervous, very nervous
  2. Interesting article. 'Robust prosecution' is not the same as 'fitting up' - it means doing the job properly and not letting the guilty walk because of technical errors in preparing the evidence or arguing the case. After all, Baha Mousa didn't beat himself to death in custody and I don't think many of us feel particularly easy with the fact that those responsible (at all levels) got away with murder.

    I'm surprised that the conviction rate at CM is higher than the average since I've often assumed (perhaps naively) that a decent civvy barrister will, more often than not, make mincemeat out of the Army Prosecuting Authority. Perhaps it is the case that soldiers are more likely to plead guilty when they're 'bang to rights' than civvies - does anyone know?
  3. Quote: allow his team of 40 prosecuting lawyers to serve for three years, to build up experience.

    I take it these will also be civvy lawyers leaping on the gravy train. Typical of Nu Liarbour, if you don' agree with the result ,change the system.
  4. My understanding of this is that he wants the serving lawyers to spend 3 years in post rather than 2 so that they build up the requisite prosecution experence.

    I welcome the change if it menas that we start to deal with the vast minority far better than we have evidently failed to do in the past.
  5. Hmmm, at the same time the military system is being "beefed" up and "robustified", there was all manner of whohar of whether or not to send two suspected murderers to Iraq for trial, involving the murder, nay execution of two British soldiers whilst Prisoners of the Iraqi Army.

    Court MARTIAL. Says what it does, and what is should be.

    Not Court Martial, with a bunch of civvies in place to ensure the thing runs "smoothly", on behalf of the government.

    Not only that, will this civvie be joining us in theatre to see what it is like at the sharp end, or will he bet he same as every other lawyer, barrister and judge in this land, seems to be? In cloud cuckoo land.

    How about any Civvie cases dealing with politics or lawyers being overseen by a military "board".

    Just to ensure similar "robustness" and fairness all round, you understand. The article points out that the CM system obtains more success than the Civvie one, already before the "changes".

    I think it was a saying in the Spanish Inquistian (I´ll have to look up the guy who said it), that he would rather have 100 innocent men die than let one heretic (guilty) escape.
  6. Make you wonder though, that we need to have 40 prosecuting lawyers, are they all barristers or are they across the whole law structure. I would love to see a breakdown of costing for the department to see how they stack up.
    Number of staff
    Pay rates
    Number of cases dealt with a year
    Time spent on cases
    What else do they do
    after 2/3 years where do they go
  7. Which failures would those be, the high profile, politically motivated ones or the ones that only appear in Orders. Yes there is a problem with trial by tribunial, but do we really need a politically motivated solution. Oh lets see now, don't they want to end trial by jury, and double jeopardy isn't looking too good either. Dont like the guilty bastard getting away with it so we will keep charging till it sticks. Yes i know its only ment for fraud and such like but once its in they will use it for whatever they wish.
  8. Perhaps they should serve 3 years in the Army first, to build up their background knowledge and experience you understand. They need a lot of experience, so the entire time should be spent on ops.
  9. Courts Martial are 'judged' by a panel of serving officers, none of whom has specific legal training. They are 'pinged' from across the army at random for Court Martial duty in much the same way that civvies can be jumped for Jury service. The Judge Advocate is there to advise the Predident about points of law, and professional military or civilian lawyers generally argue the case because they have many years of training to ensure that the evidence is prepared and used according to the rules, but the panel sit in judgement because they are in a position to understand the evidence in a way that civilians cannot. If the lawyers do their jobs properly, verdicts are less likely to be challenged on appeal for technicalities. If not, why argue for people with even less training? That is why, IMHO, their skill with a bayonet or experiences of being mortared are considerably less relevent than an ability, for instance, to cross-examine effectively. They do the PQO course for exactly the same reason as doctors and padres - taking them through the regular commissioning course would be a waste of ammunition and a bedspace that could otherwise be allocated to someone who needed it.

    As far as I can see, this has nothing to do with political manouevring, and everything to do with ensuring that our justice system is as credible as it should be. If people commit serious crimes whilst wearing our uniform, they shouldn't expect to get away with it because the system is run by people without the necessary experience to make complicated cases stick. Nobody's suggesting 'making an example' of otherwise blameless soldiers. You cannot, however, claim that the result of the Baha Mousa case, for one, was satisfactory - yes, it's a high profile one alongside many, many examples of routine business, but to me it highlights a problem that needs addressing.
  10. Exrivofrigido,

    Must be the cynicism in me, but all I see here is a knee jerk reaction (in the usual slow time) to ensure "embarrasments" such as a high profile trial falling apart due to factors OTHER than the "robustness" of the system.

    If there is a problem in the gathering of evidence then sort that out, I don´t see a need to touch the Courts.

    We seem to be on the way to a UK version of JAG. How long before the Operational side of the court ie the judges, yield their places to those who are "robust", "legal" and perhaps "politically savvy".

    We don´t see changes to the civilian courts system, even when crooked police offiers walk away barely touched or the CPS decides a Police Inspector isn´t worth prosecuting for theft.

    We don´t see Judges "removed from post" for giving out barking sentances or comments along the lines that a rape victim was "asking for it".

    Seems strange that a civvie would be dropped in to combine the services, and set out to prevent further "flops" in a system. Citing specifically a high profile, highly political case.

    Not to mention having a pop at one of the pillers of our own community... Loyalty.

    I am not completely naive as to beleive that this is a pop at the forces. Our Courts system is undoubtedly viewed from an international forum, the Iraqis must surely follow our cases when appropriate. Perhaps that is why our standards must be higher.

    But like I say above, perhaps the cases in UK involving political and lawyer interests should be headed up by a Military man?
  11. "To ensure that appropriate evidence was acquired in every case, Mr Houlder said that he would push for a closer working relationship between his prosecuting authority and the military investigators in the same way that the Crown Prosecution Service liaised with the police in criminal cases."

    Yep works for me more like the UK mainstream CPS and Police work together, then watch the conviction rate plummet just like the mainstream UK
  12. Someone already said it: 'New' Labour, or is it 'Newer' Labour nowadays, requires everything and everybody to adhere to the 'party line' in all matters.

    Next step will be, some smarmy 'civvy git' appointed as CGS in order to 'ensure compliance and value for money' throughout the Army.

    This morning's diktat by the way was some bent politico outlining 'targets' to reduce the number of fat children by 2020. Soon we shall have the 'bonking' regulators and those civil servants (newly recruited) charged with ensuring that sexual relations are properly conducted in accordance with party directives.

    A 'working-party' of 'experts' has been assembled by the government to examine ways of controlling breathing in the population and methods by which said activity may be taxed!
  13. Sounds like the Government are making sure that when they hang people out to dry as an example they want to make sure they get a conviction rather than looking like numpties. Prime example being Tim Collins, attempted to make him the fall guy, MoD fail and he gets given the MBE as a "shut the fcuk up and leave".
  14. I'm more than happy that we get a better legal system for the Armed Forces. Continuity in post and some external experience is a very good thing. We've screwed up far too many CM's so a real robust system is welcome.
  15. I agree that it looks thoroughly fishy that we've had to wait until we get bad headlines until we do something to deal with problems that have been recognised in some quarters long before. I'm not sure if comparisons with the civilian system stand up necessarily, but I'm no expert. I'm always wary of the lurid Daily Mail headlines; I have close family practicing in criminal law (with experience both prosecuting and defending) and it seems to me that the vast majority of un-newsworthy cases are dealt with in an eminently sensible fashion, which is probably why they don't make the newspapers. Even where they do, there is inevitably more to it than just the 'barking sentence' - sentencing guidelines are usually extremely strict and rarely rely on the whim of a mad judge. Let's face it, we barely trust a word that journalists write about our profession, so what's to say that the law does any better!

    You make fair comments, but to my mind you sum it up in your last paragraph - our standards must be higher. There's a big difference between true loyalty and 'honour amongst thieves' - I believe that his point was that loyalty to their Regiment and the Army appeared sadly lacking in the case quoted, both in their initial actions and in their later 'memory loss'. And what of the other Values - Discipline, Courage, Respect for others, Integrity et al?