A multi-million pound Military Court Centre has opened at Bulford Camp which will serve Army detachments in the Salisbury Plain area as well as Royal Navy, Royal Marines and RAF units in the south and south west.
The new courts, officially opened by Major Mark Mans, Deputy Adjutant General, are equipped with hi-tech video and IT systems and will bring military justice into the 21st Century.
The new centre will also enable military legal hearings to take place in facilities comparable to those found in any modern civilian court. Two further centres are now under construction, one in Colchester, the other in Catterick.
The manager of the new courts, Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Ray Aldis, said the old court at Bulford Camp no longer met the requirements of either the Human Rights Act or the Disability Discrimination Act:
"Quite frankly it was long past its sell-by date," he said.
The two courtroom facility has all the supporting administration and offices, not just for the court staff, but for the lawyers and prosecutors:
"We run on very similar lines to a civilian court, however I think we look after people better," Ray continued. "For example, a barrister coming here will get his own office to talk in private with his client. This does not happen in the civilian Crown Court, where they all mill around trying to find a quiet corner. And because we are in a remote area we feed and water them, we feel duty bound to look after people who come here."
A video conferencing link plays an important role:
"Legally, we cannot force anyone who is abroad, other than military personnel, to come back to court. Some of the cases originate overseas like Germany for example and involve civilian witnesses who do not wish to travel here. When we offer the chance for them to give their evidence over a video link they usually do so.