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Liberty slams MoD and it’s ‘second-rate’ military justice system

LONDON, 3 february 2019- BRITAIN’S Ministry of Defence (MoD) runs a “second-rate” military justice system that systematically fails rape victims, a scathing new report released today by human rights group Liberty claims.

It found “significant flaws” in the way the armed forces deal with “some of the most sensitive and serious criminal cases involving service personnel.”

The civil liberties group is so concerned that it has launched a telephone helpline to offer troops legal advice about their human rights.

Liberty lambasted what it called a “boys’ club” approach to justice in the armed forces “that prevents the impartial and effective investigation” of grave offences.

The group published the report based on its years of experience representing troops going through the military’s in-house justice system.

They claim that the Service Police, comprising Royal Military, Royal Naval and RAF Police, has a “hostility to outside scrutiny from more experienced civilian police and prosecutors.”

This attitude has prevented rape victims from gaining access to the more robust civilian justice system, resulting in lower conviction rates for sexual assault under the military justice scheme.

In 2017, just two of the 48 rape cases that made it to court martial resulted in a conviction, Liberty said.

Although legally civilian detectives should investigate alleged sexual offences, Liberty said that the Royal Military Police conducted over a hundred probes into sexual assault in 2017 alone.

The civil liberties watchdog also accused the MoD of “downgrading” offences “so that they can be dealt with internally and not go to court at all.”

In practice, allegations of sexual assault may be reduced to battery, an offence which a unit’s commanding officer can deal with themselves without getting police involved.

Liberty said this practice must end, although the MoD has denied it takes place.

The group also warned that the real scale of sex abuse in the military may be “significantly higher” than MoD statistics suggest, because the department refuses to record data on serious sexual offences.

These include creating or possessing indecent images of children, possession of extreme pornographic images, revenge porn offences, sexual communications with a child or criminal harassment offences.

Liberty’s Emma Norton, a solicitor who represents many troops on the “sharp end” of military justice, said: “It ought to be beyond discussion that the investigation of serious criminal offences such as rape or other serious assaults should be handled by the civilian police, not the Service Police who lack the resources, experience and expertise.

“If the MoD is serious about tackling unhealthy attitudes or patterns of behaviour in the forces, what better way to demonstrate that than by ensuring independent police always investigate and have oversight of those difficult cases?”

An MoD spokesperson said: “The service justice system closely mirrors the system for civilians. It is subject to regular parliamentary oversight and police investigations are independent of the military chain of command.

“In order to ensure the system continues to operate effectively, an independent review is currently underway, which Liberty has recently fed into.

“We continue to provide a wide range of support to victims and, if needed, there are various mechanisms through which personnel can raise concerns, including through the Service Complaints system.”

However, Symon Hill from the Peace Pledge Union told the Morning Star that military courts should be scrapped.

He said: “The fact that Liberty feels the need to set up a helpline for armed forces personnel shows just how serious things are getting.

“Militarism is a class issue,” he added, with the armed forces targeting the poorest people for recruitment, denying them employment rights like union membership and then “often dump them back into poverty when they leave.” (www.themorningstaronline.co.uk)


Posted by on 3 Febbraio 2019. Filed under News From The World. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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