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.
If you’ve already been involved in our campaign, you’ll know that we welcome the recent creation by Parliament of an empowered and independent Service Complaints Ombudsman.
This is a significant step towards ensuring that members of our Armed Forces have access to justice. However there is still a lot more to be done.
Please read Liberty's report, 'Military Justice - Proposals for a fair and independent military justice system'.
Once you’ve done so, help us by emailing your MP below – and asking them to back our recommendations for change.
Email your MP
Liberty represents a number of members of the Armed Forces and their families as part of our Military Justice campaign.
Through our legal work, we’ve identified a number of problems – particularly with the investigation of sexual assault and rape in the military.
A crucial change is now required to ensure our service men and women can access the appropriate legal processes, and that allegations are investigated in an independent, impartial manner.
Please email your MP today and urge them to support the following policy recommendations. (Remember to make it personal, to ensure it gets read!):
1. Service police forces and local police forces should collect and publish annually anonymised statistics on the number of sexual assault and rape allegations made by or against members of the Armed Forces.
2. Parliament should amend the Armed Forces Act 2011 – so that allegations of sexual assault, exposure and voyeurism have to be referred automatically to the police.
3. Allegations of rape and sexual assault must always be investigated by local police forces rather than service police forces.
4. Arrangement for investigating serious crimes committed abroad should also be changed – so that an independent police force, rather than the service police force, is responsible.
5. The three service police forces should be brought within the civilian system of police oversight.
The severity of allegations of sexual assault or rape should be reflected by the legal procedures surrounding them. The current system not only fails to protect service men and women, but reaffirms a damaging internal culture that shows disregard for their dignity, equality and human rights.
Help us stop second-rate justice for our soldiers. 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 Royal Military Police (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, and most fundamentally, 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.
As the judge himself noted in very strong terms, the case should have been heard five years ago.
It was due to the Human Rights Act that the grave deficiencies in policies and practices of those responsible for investigating sexual offences committed against members of the armed forces could be revealed.
Between 1995 and 2001 four young British Army recruits were undergoing initial training at Deepcut, Surrey. They all died of gunshot wounds.
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. On 3 June 2016, the coroner of the inquest recorded a verdict of suicide, delivering a narrative verdict that severely criticised serious failures in duty of care at Deepcut barracks.
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.