Why is Military Justice important?
Military Justice is Liberty’s campaign to protect and uphold the human rights of those serving in our Armed Forces.
We believe that the rights of service men and women are just as deserving of protection as civilians.
That’s why Liberty is representing the families of several soldiers who have been failed by the current system. The families of Anne-Marie Ellement, Cheryl James, Sean Benton and James Collinson deserve answers and they deserve justice.
Alongside our legal work Liberty is asking the Government to make improvements to embed independence and fairness for our troops at the heart of the military justice system.
You can help us by emailing your MP below.
How can I get involved and take action?
Email your MP
Liberty represents a number of members of the Armed Forces and their families as part of our Military Justice campaign.
We’ve long called for the creation of an independent military Ombudsman. So we’re pleased that’s now on the cards, thanks to the Government’s Armed Forces Bill.
Originally, however, the Bill meant such an Ombudsman would only have been able to investigate maladministration, rather than the actual substance of complaints. The Ombudsman also wouldn’t have been able to require the Armed Forces to implement any recommendations.
Thankfully, during the recent Committee Stage debate, the Bill was changed so that the proposed Ombudsman would indeed have the power to investigate the substance of complaints. This is a vital change that will help create a complaints system that’s effective and transparent.
It’s only right that those who serve our country have their complaints about military life dealt with quickly and properly, by an independent organisation.
Help us get this proposal into law – email your MP today and urge them to support this crucial change, and ensure the Government doesn’t reverse it and undermine this Bill’s admirable intentions.
(Remember to make your email personal, to ensure it gets read!)
Help us stop second-rate justice for our service men and women. They deserve better.
Tell me more about Military Justice
Liberty is currently representing the families of several soldiers let down by the current system:
Anne-Marie had always wanted to join the Army. She loved her job as a military policewoman and believed in justice. In 2009 she reported that she had been raped by two colleagues, also RMP officers. Other military police officers investigated but no charges were brought, a decision which devastated her. She was not believed. She began to be bullied by other soldiers. They called her ‘skank’, ‘slag’, ‘liar’, ‘the girl who cried rape’. She was transferred to a new unit but the bullying continued. In October 2011 Anne-Marie took her own life.
A very brief inquest was held which did not examine any of these matters in depth. Following a judicial review brought by Liberty acting for Anne-Marie’s sisters Sharon Hardy and Khristina Swain, a fresh inquest was held in February 2014. We also asked that the rape investigation be re-opened because the first investigation had been severely lacking. Most fundamentally, it was not independent – the RMP investigated the RMP. You don't need to be a lawyer to understand the dangers of such a lack of impartiality.
Liberty, using the Human Rights Act, demanded that a fresh investigation be conducted with service police from another branch of the military together with civilian police specialising in sex crime. The RAF Police have now begun a fresh investigation, with the assistance and expertise of Bedfordshire Police.
Between 1995 and 2001 four young British Army recruits were undergoing initial training at Deepcut, Surrey. They all died of gunshot wounds. Questions about their deaths remain unanswered.
Liberty is representing the families of Sean Benton, Cheryl James and James Collinson (pictured). We have serious concerns regarding the circumstances surrounding their deaths and how they were investigated. In July 2014 the High Court ordered a fresh inquest into Cheryl's death, after we used the Human Rights Act to secure access to documents held by the authorities about her death. We are now calling for fresh inquests into the deaths of Sean and James also.
What has this got to do with human rights?
It is one of the cardinal features of the law of England that a person does not, by enlisting in or entering the Armed Forces, thereby cease to be a citizen, so as to deprive him of his rights or to exempt him from his liabilities under the ordinary law of the land.
Chapter 303, Halsbury’s Laws of England.
As a human being you have human rights and under British law those rights are protected by the Human Rights Act.
If you are the victim of a crime, you have the right to a proper investigation and for those responsible to be held to account. That’s how it works. Being a soldier doesn’t make you less human. Those laws and those rights still apply.
- Article 2 of the Human Rights Act – the right to life – requires that the state not only refrain from taking life but also take steps to protect it. In the event of a death where the state may be involved, it also requires an independent, prompt and open investigation.
- Article 3 relates to inhuman and degrading treatment. Cases of rape, for example, must be investigated and those responsible held to account.