The rights of service men and women are just important as civilians.
That's why we are representing the families of several soldiers who have been failed by the current system and are asking the Government to ensure independence and fairness for our troops are at the heart of military justice going forwards.
The families of Anne-Marie Ellement, Cheryl James, Sean Benton and James Collinson deserve answers and they deserve justice. All our serving men and women deserve equal rights protection.
If you’ve been following the campaign, you’ll know that we've already made significant progress;
- A new empowered and independent Service Complaints Ombudsman is in place
- The first ever set of statistics on sexual offences in the military justice system have been published
- Most recently, it has been announced in the Commons that allegations of sexual assault, voyeurism and exposure will be automatically referred to the service police, rather than left to a Commanding Officer to investigate, or ignore
These are all important steps towards ensure equal rights and justice for our Armed Forces.
But there is still more to be done.
Help us by joining Liberty and supporting the campaign.
How do human rights protect service men and women?
Justice for soldiers and families
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 continue to pursue a fresh inquest for James.
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.