The Times - Army told to open up system of justice

DangerMouse

Old-Salt
Moderator
#1
The Times said:
"Army told to open up system of justice

Deborah Haynes Defence Editor - Deborah Haynes - The Times
The Times, 3 January, 2013.

The Army should allow an outside authority to resolve complaints of bullying, sexual harrassment and other abuses according to officers, politicians and a military watchdog.

The move, which is opposed by military chiefs, would prise open a centuries-old system of unchecked, internal discipline that has left many soldiers reluctant to speak out. They fear being labelled troublemakers and lack confidence in the Army’s ability to investigate its own people.

One officer who has raised accusations of bullying said that without reform Service personnel who felt they were being ignored might be driven to suicide.

Concerns have also been expressed about the whole military justice system, which was the focus of public anger last month with the botched jailing of the SAS sergeant Danny Nightingale.

Some lawyers and academics say that the Army should no longer have the power to convict soldiers for criminal offences.

Madeleine Moon, a Labour MP and member of the Defence Select Committee, said that it was ludicrous to allow the Army to rule on complaints with impunity. “There is such an impediment in the right to justice,” said Mrs Moon, who has been investigating cases of alleged rape and sexual harassment within the military. “There needs to be a change. The next step is to get a service ombudsman then I would feel that at least we would have some movement.”

Sources within the military and the Ministry of Defence revealed:

• The number of complaints across the Armed Forces last year is expected to hit 550, a 10 per cent increase on 2011.

• Complaints about bullying, harassment and discrimination account for 40 per cent of the total.

• By last September, more than 200 complaints had yet to be resolved more than a year after they were begun, despite pressure to deal with them faster.

Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholas Mercer, a former military lawyer, waited more than four years for a complaint that he had made to be resolved, by which time his army career was over.

“The reality is that it is very hard to secure any satisfactory resolution through the service complaints system,” said Colonel Mercer, who was the Government’s chief legal adviser during the Iraq war and is now Assistant Curate at a church in Dorset.

“Most people give up the ghost because it goes on for ever and people just think that the odds are stacked against them and many simply can’t face the ordeal.”
He claimed that soldiers were penalised for speaking out. “I know one officer who was repeatedly threatened with disciplinary action for alleging misconduct. It subsequently came to light that his army records had been tampered with and a promotions board deliberately thrown.”

Dr Susan Atkins, the Service Complaints Commissioner, an independent voice who oversees military grievances but has no power to influence their outcome, said that a more powerful ombudsman was required. This would serve as the ultimate authority that resolves internal disputes and reports of abuse instead of leaving the top brass with the final word.
“Servicemen are prepared to put their life on the line and they have every right to expect that when things go wrong they can speak out about it in confidence and it can be resolved quickly. At present that is not happening and they deserve better,” she said.

The Service complaints system, which is supposed to give military personnel an avenue to resolve problems, was set up six years ago in response to a scandal at Deepcut barracks between 1995 and 2002 when four soldiers died in mysterious circumstances amid reports of systematic bullying.

Dr Atkins said that she had raised awareness among military chiefs about the importance of dealing with complaints but that it was only a partial success, with the military still taking too long to resolve a grievance or to disclose internal documents that an individual might want to support their allegations of mistreatment.

The Defence Select Committee has been made aware of several allegations of mistreatment suffered by soldiers, including a female officer who says that she was a victim of sexual harassment and a captain who claims that he was bullied.

Captain Gregg McLeod, whose career was effectively finished after he was found guilty of social misconduct after an internal discipline process that he likened to a kangaroo court, made clear his dissatisfaction in an e-mail sent to a group of MPs last month.

“In March 2011 I fell victim to what evolved to be a procrastinated campaign of bullying, victimisation and harassment. My career has been destroyed by bullies, liars and cowards,” he wrote.
“I am resilient. If, however, a junior soldier had been subjected to my treatment, I believe they may have taken their own life.”

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said that the Army was committed to treating its soldiers fairly and transparently.

“The Service Complaints Commissioner provides vital independent oversight of the complaints system to ensure it operates as effectively and efficiently as possible,” she said."

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/defence/article3646579.ece
Personally, I agree. I've served 12 years and seen and heard many nasty stories. I suspect I'm not the only one?

Issue

In the 1880's it was controversial to award COs power to inflict any greater than 7 days imprisonment.
In 2012, COs have the power to routinely impose 28 days imprisonment, and if granted so-called extended powers (i.e. with their boss's permission), they can inflict 90 days imprisonment!

Status Quo

Powers of punishment are governed by Armed Forces Act 2006, Part 6, Chapter 1: Armed Forces Act 2006 and The Armed Forces (Summary Hearing and Activation of Suspended Sentences of Service Detention) Rules 2009: The Armed Forces (Summary Hearing and Activation of Suspended Sentences of Service Detention) Rules 2009

AFA 06, Section 133:
133 Detention: limits on powers
(1) The maximum term of detention that a commanding officer may award under row 1 of the Table in section 132 to an able rate, marine, soldier or airman is—
(a) 90 days if the commanding officer has extended powers for the purposes of this subsection;
(b) otherwise, 28 days.

Also explained in Joint Service Publication 830, The Manual of Service Law, Volume 1, Chapter 13, page 1-13-10 and Annex A (1-13-A-1): https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/27906/Ch13.pdf

Historically (1879)

Power of Commanding Officer. (Hansard, 20 June 1879)

MR. RYLANDS considered there were strong arguments in favour of an Amendment of this character…. He held in his hand a Memorandum written by a colonel, holding at the present moment that rank in the Army, which said— …it is a very dangerous power to give to any man of that rank; And it went on to remark— In view of the idiots sometimes to be found in the command of regiments, it is a very dangerous power.

MR. A. H. BROWN… the recommendations of the Royal Commission went further, for they proposed to extend the powers of a commanding officer in the case of all offences to a sentence of imprisonment for 21 days. To that recommendation he was entirely opposed. …

MR. RYLANDS …when he considered that this power would be exercised in some cases by men of not altogether sound judgment, and that the more men that were sent to prison the more they injured the efficiency of the Force, he thought they should look with jealousy upon the power of a commanding officer to inflict such a punishment... evidence was given before them with reference to the number of summary punishments inflicted in different regiments, and it was shown that the number varied very much indeed. ...some commanding officers were a great deal more severe than others, and that while numerous punishments were inflicted in some regiments, in others the number of punishments inflicted was very small indeed. That was most important, as showing that in giving commanding officers these summary powers they ought to surround them with sufficient safeguards.


Obvious questions for ARRSE

I have my own opinions, but I'd more be interested to hear what other people think:

Summary Hearings are secret (no public/press, and no reports), internal court proceedings, run by a single man (the CO) who has power of commander, trial judge, prosecutor, jury and sentencing judge. Even in 1879 politicians were afraid that
they were dangerous powers in the hands of a single man.

1. Do you think that the the increase from 7 days imprisonment in 1879 to 90 days imprisonment in 2013 is fair to soldiers, or even necessary? We had a far larger Army in 1879 - why do officers (like me) need those powers now?

2. Regarding the "botched jailing of the SAS sergeant Danny Nightingale" - do you feel confident that whether or not you go to prison depends on whether or not your wife speaks to the Telegraph, and if the Secretary of State fancies writing to the Attorney General - or would you rather trust, professional, civilian courts?

3. "More than 200 complaints have taken more than a year" - do you trust the Service Complaints system?

4. "The Service complaints system, which is supposed to give military personnel an avenue to resolve problems, was set up six years ago in response to a scandal at Deepcut barracks between 1995 and 2002 when four soldiers died in mysterious circumstances amid reports of systematic bullying." Have we honoured the memories of the Deepcut dead, and are confident that if soldiers are mistreated in the British Army today, that it would be properly handled? (Not better handled - that wouldn't be hard, but *properly* handled)

5. How much variation is there in handling of Summary Hearings between different regiments, and between the Army, the RN and the RAF? In theory, everyone should be equal before the law. Is this the lived reality of service personnel? (Why are Summary Hearing results kept secret - we publish Courts Martial and Major AGAI Action results - but not Summary Hearings: what are we hiding?)

6. Any other comments on Courts Martial, Summary Hearing, AGAI 67, Service Complaints and the RMP/ALS?
 
#3
DM, you are a very perceptive bloke so I'm sure it has occurred to you that this is the thin end of a very large wedge being driven *********** of the British Army. You only have to look at the names of the sources in this article to see that. Where does it stop? Voting wether or not to go on patrol? I think the fact that complaints are up is indicative of the modern paradigm and almost certainly not due to an increase in abuse of soldiers. Nearly all the horror stories (many of them true) are from ten or more years ago and I'm sure we can all agree that was a very different Army.

As to the executive powers a CO I've only ever seen one bloke banged up for 28 days and he thoroughly deserved it. If he was a civvie his life would be pretty much over - instead he had to put up with doing something roughly equatable to a lot of cadre courses. The CO seemed genuinely remorseful at the idea of dishing out such punishment.


Posted from the ARRSE Mobile app (iOS or Android)
 
#7
Overhaul is not required. Correct application of the rules as they stand however, would be nice. Another job creation scheme for Lawyers?
 

DangerMouse

Old-Salt
Moderator
#8
my question is - how many threads on this topic are you going to start?
I'm just putting the different stories came through my RSS feed up as separate topics. If, as CamNostos perspicaciously observes, this ' is the thin end of a very large wedge., rightly or wrongly, then dumping every vaguely related story in to a single thread would cause chaos, no? We may as well have one hugmungous thread on ARRSE called "Army stuff".

Happy to be corrected, though: Bad CO can always aggregate the threads. Easier to merge stuff than have to separate it, I thought. Apologies if I'm wrong! :)
 
#10
1. Do you think that the the increase from 7 days imprisonment in 1879 to 90 days imprisonment in 2013 is fair to soldiers, or even necessary? We had a far larger Army in 1879 - why do officers (like me) need those powers now?

I have no experience of this, I feel it unfair to comment that said in civillian life we have the magistrates, perhaps on disciplinary matters there should be a panel, CO or the Regiment and 2 Officers or Soldiers from another regiment.

2. Regarding the "botched jailing of the SAS sergeant Danny Nightingale" - do you feel confident that whether or not you go to prison depends on whether or not your wife speaks to the Telegraph, and if the Secretary of State fancies writing to the Attorney General - or would you rather trust, professional, civilian courts?

I believe the Military Courts made the right decision to Jail this man I am not entirely sure who made the decision to release him but I believe this was the wrong decision.

3. "More than 200 complaints have taken more than a year" - do you trust the Service Complaints system?

I trust they always try to act to the best interests of those who make the complaints, I had a very positive experience dealing with the Service Complaints System. That said I feel they have not got enough power to influence a decision where it should be. If a CO has made up their mind the deal is done.


4. "The Service complaints system, which is supposed to give military personnel an avenue to resolve problems, was set up six years ago in response to a scandal at Deepcut barracks between 1995 and 2002 when four soldiers died in mysterious circumstances amid reports of systematic bullying." Have we honoured the memories of the Deepcut dead, and are confident that if soldiers are mistreated in the British Army today, that it would be properly handled? (Not better handled - that wouldn't be hard, but *properly* handled)

No, Service Complaints are not properly handled, When I put one in I managed to get an interview with my CO, My assisting officer was changed at least twice, so I had no one to prepare with prior to the interview. If my experience is anything to go on although the Service Complaints staff are willing, Even if a soldier has relatively strong support from their local CoC their is little to be done against a CO who has already made a decision.

5. How much variation is there in handling of Summary Hearings between different regiments, and between the Army, the RN and the RAF? In theory, everyone should be equal before the law. Is this the lived reality of service personnel? (Why are Summary Hearing results kept secret - we publish Courts Martial and Major AGAI Action results - but not Summary Hearings: what are we hiding?)


I can't comment

6. Any other comments on Courts Martial, Summary Hearing, AGAI 67, Service Complaints and the RMP/ALS?

The RMP in my opinion have not proven to be an effective investigative force, I have had no contact with the ALS. The AGAI system is open to abuse. I have no experience of Courts Martial but I do know that the threat of court martial is used to threaten soldiers into agreeing to their CO's wishes.
 
P

PrinceAlbert

Guest
#11
As to the executive powers a CO I've only ever seen one bloke banged up for 28 days and he thoroughly deserved it.
On the flipside - had I been a civvy I'd have got away with something that I did. Instead I ended up in pokey for 18 days and a £750 bill to pay.

The Army system makes it too easy to bang people away for x days, and "award" fines far too easily. Sometimes they aren't in line with what a civvy would get.

I have no experience of Courts Martial but I do know that the threat of court martial is used to threaten soldiers into agreeing to their CO's wishes.
That's not the case. You can elect to be tried by Courts Marshall, but they can't give you a higher punishment than the "level" you're being tried at, so there is no point in making such a threat.
 
#13
The Army system makes it too easy to bang people away for x days, and "award" fines far too easily. Sometimes they aren't in line with what a civvy would get.
.

Surely we in the Army need a much higher set of standards than civvy street, so a tighter discipline & punishment system seems appropriate? The Army also needs upon occasion to administer justice at a low level or in field conditions (ie in war), so its also seems acceptable to have a system that delegates the process down to individuals who are on the spot, whether they have much legal skill or not (ie the CoC).

Servicemen join the armed forces on a voluntary basis, and the rule book is there on the table in plain sight. In all the (mostly low level) cases I've involved with, I've never detected a particular sense of grievance or injustice amongst the varied defendants - most seem to accept the rules of the tribe, and that punishments can be light or heavy on the day. I must admit I didn't think there was much wrong with the "old" system; it was generally fair, albeit harsh on occasions.
 
#14
As someone who went through the service justice system on a depressingly regular basis I was always very impressed with it. It was quick, didn't get distracted with needless bollocks and it seemed fair. I was never found guilty of something I hadn't done, and in fact was found not guilty of several things I HAD done. The last thing it needs is more lawyers getting involved.
 
#15
The Army system makes it too easy to bang people away for x days, and "award" fines far too easily. Sometimes they aren't in line with what a civvy would get.

.
Of course they aren't. When would a civvy be fined for not polishing his boots, for not shaving, for not doing his block job? A civvy wouldn't necessarily lose his job for smoking cannabis, for drink-driving or, in the case of officers, for bouncing a cheque. Then again, a civvy might not lose his life if his mate didn't do his job properly, either.
When I had powers of a detachment commander, I fined a female Sgt 5 weeks pay for being in the male OR accommodation. That wouldn't have happened to a civvy, either.
 
#16
Madeleine Moon, a Labour MP and member of the Defence Select Committee, said that it was ludicrous to allow the Army to rule on complaints with impunity. “There is such an impediment in the right to justice,” said Mrs Moon, who has been investigating cases of alleged rape and sexual harassment within the military. “There needs to be a change. The next step is to get a service ombudsman then I would feel that at least we would have some movement.”

****ing says it all right here. Once you start bringing in human rights brigade(normally labour driven) then you become the "European Army in Hairnets" as described by Tim Collins. Next you will be saying you want to employ women?
 
#17
The old saying is that Justice be done and be seen to be done. I think this is a factor that may have been ignored in the argument.

Last year a County Court judge refused to make an order against Kent Chief constable and his co-defendant to disclose the estate accounts of David O'Leary who was murdered in 2008.

The hearing swore a witness who was there intending allegedly to admit to forging the will after the murder. The Judge forbade questions about the legality of the will and then gave judgment based on the legality of the will.

This caused much laughter and derision in a large number of the area's pubs. It is well known in the area that the will was allegedly a ringer. And that Police don't want that to emerge. Result was like re-inventing the wheel. Reinforced the widely held view that police are both bent and useless and that judges will bend rules to protect chief constables.

In the civilian environment it doesn't really matter. Police, judges, coroners and magistrates are not held in much regard.

But in an Army unit the CO cannot afford to have injustice be seen to be done. It isn't just a matter of morale. It is about a unit losing any trust in his judgment.
 
#19
I think this raises a few questions that Arrsers should consider in their replies-I'd be interested to hear people's opinions:

1. Why should the Army be a 'special case' and not adhere to the same rules as the rest of society? Note, this doesn't mean administering in justice in the same way-I do recognise the need for recognition of different circumstances such as field punishment, higher standards of discipline, etc.

2. Should one person have that much power over another?

3. Why should a soldier, more than anyone else, be subject to one person's opinion, whim and errors? Is he not deserving of checks and balances to ensure that his trial and sentence are fair, consistent and appropriate to his crime?




Posted from the ARRSE Mobile app (iOS or Android)
 

Latest Threads

Top