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Military Law & Courts Martial

We have experience of successfully defending members of the armed forces (Navy, Army and RAF personnel) at Court Martial and in police interviews (both civilian and military interviews). We have conduct of cases all over England and Wales, Germany and Cyprus. Of note we successfully defended in the 2006/7 trial involving allegations of war crimes in Iraq.

We advise on all criminal matters including Murder, assault, sexual offences fraud and specific services offences.

We are happy to advise you on all stages of the proceedings from potential service police interviews through to the conclusions of proceedings.

Kaim Todner are a member of the Forces Law network of Solicitors

Court Martial

All members of the armed forces and some civilians subject to forces discipline can be tried by Court Martial for offences against military law. These include disciplinary offences and all criminal offences under the laws of England and Wales. The Armed Forces Act 2006 which came into effect from 1 November 2009 established the Court Martial as a permanent court with jurisdiction over the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force.
Certain offences may be heard by a Commanding Officer in a summary hearing; all other offences must be heard by the Court Martial. As with civilian law, individuals facing Court Martial are entitled to legal representation.

Historical Basis of the Court Martial

Prior to the permanent establishment of the Court Martial, military hearings were carried out on an ad hoc basis due to the way in which military law had developed. Around the mid 17th Century, military discipline in the British Army and Navy matters were exclusively conducted by the Crown. It was not until 1881 that a new system was deployed with the passing of the first Army Act. This Act created the rules and constitution for the Court Martial system. In the mid 20th Century the Court Martial system became fully independent.

Operation of the Court Martial System

Although certain offences may be heard by a Commanding Officer in a summary hearing, more serious offences or offences committed by personnel above a specific rank must be heard by Court Martial. In addition, individuals facing a summary hearing may opt for Court Martial instead. Accordingly, any member of the Army, Navy or Air force may be tried by Court Martial if they commit an offence.
Prosecution is carried out by the Service Prosecuting Authority, made up of lawyers from all three services. The nature of the hearing will depend upon the status of the individual and the type of offence alleged. A Court Martial is made up of a Court Board which includes a Judge Advocate and between three and seven officers. Usually the Judge Advocate acts as an assistant to the Judge Advocate General; both are full time positions employed by the Lord Chancellor.
Rulings on matters of law, practice and procedure are carried out by the Judge Advocate. Rulings based on findings of innocence or guilt are made by the Court Board.

Court Martial Sentencing

A Court Martial shares the same powers of sentencing as the Magistrate and Crown Courts have in relation to civilian offences. A Commanding Officer carrying out a summary hearing has limited powers of sentencing.
Punishments that a Court Martial may impose range from: imprisonment, detention, dismissal and fines.

Legal Aid in the Court Martial System

There is a legal aid scheme in place designed to assist service personnel who are tried by Court Martial. This is managed by the Armed Forces Criminal Legal Aid Authority which applies the same principles as its civilian counterpart does in the Magistrates and Crown court system. Instructing a lawyer means that independent legal advice can be given to the person being tried.

Please also visit our Law Guides section for more information;

Military Law & Courts Martial News