What is Court Martial?
Court Martial process applies to the military courts in the United Kingdom which are governed by the Armed Forces Act 2006. This system replaced the previous systems and applies to the Royal Navy, Army, and Royal Air Force, with jurisdiction over all members of the UK armed forces as well as civilians subject to service discipline.
Commanding officers can deal with most offences of the armed forces against service law through a summary hearing. These offences must be minor and committed by someone below the rank of:
- Commander in the Navy
- Lieutenant Colonel in the Army or Royal Marines
- Wing Commander in the RAF.
Minor offences include:
- Being AWOL
- Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order
- Ill-treating subordinates
- Offences against civilian law, such as theft, assault, criminal damage, careless driving
The types of offences which can’t be dealt with by summary hearing include assisting the enemy, misconduct on operations, mutiny and desertion. However, a person charged with a minor offence has the right to choose trial by Court Martial instead of a summary hearing. However, of this is the case, the offender cannot be given a punishment greater than the maximum available to the Commanding Officer.
Court Martial Process
Any offence against service law can be tried by the Court Martial – this includes criminal offences under the law of England and Wales. The procedure is comparable to that of the Crown Court and is presided over by a judge advocate and board of three to seven officers and warrant officers. The judge advocate decides on matters of law, practice and procedure. The board makes findings of guilt or innocence by a majority vote. The judge advocate and board cooperate to deliberate on sentencing.
The Court Martial can impose punishments including:
- Imprisonment in a civilian prison
- Detention at the Military Corrective Training Centre in Colchester
- Dismissal from the armed services
- An unlimited fine
The procedure changes somewhat if it is a civilian being tried as the board comprises civilian members, who do not participate in sentencing, as the judge advocate sentences alone. The Court Martial can impose punishments on a civilian including:
- A fine
- Community service
Court Martial can be appealed at the Court Martial Appeal Court which was founded in 1951.