It came into force on 31 October 2006. It replaces the three separate Service Discipline Acts (the Army Act 1955
, the Air Force Act 1955
and the Naval Discipline Act 1957
) as the system of military law
under which the British Armed Forces
operate. The Armed Forces Act harmonizes service law between the three armed services. One motivating factor behind the changes in the legislation combining discipline acts across the armed forces is the trend towards tri-service operations and defence organizations.
The Act also granted a symbolic pardon
to soldiers controversially executed for cowardice and other offences during the First World War
Key areas of change include:
- Summary Discipline: Summary hearing and the role of the Commanding Officer is retained at the heart of Service discipline and is the mechanism by which most offences are dealt. Summary offences and powers are harmonised across the Services. There is a reduction in the number of offences and sentencing powers available to Commanding Officers of the Royal Navy and an increase in those available to British Army and Royal Air Force Commanding Officers as powers of punishment are harmonised.
- Service Prosecuting Authority: A single Service Prosecuting Authority, staffed by lawyers from all three Services, has been created. The role of the SPA is unchanged in that it will determine whether to prosecute an accused under Service law and will conduct the prosecution case at most Courts Martial.
- The Court Martial: Courts Martial remain the means of dealing with the most serious offences. A standing Court Martial has been introduced comprising a Judge Advocate and a minimum of 3 or 5 Service members depending on the seriousness of the offence. In order to harmonise with the other Services, the Royal Navy introduced the unqualified right for all personnel to elect for trial by Court Martial regardless of the seriousness of the offence.
The Act sets out offences against service law and the associated punishments. The offences fall into two main categories:
The mass pardon of 306 British Empire
soldiers executed for certain offences during the Great War
was enacted in section 359 of the Act, which came into effect on royal assent. This number included three from New Zealand, twenty three from Canada, two from the West Indies, two from Ghana and one each from Sierra Leone, Egypt and Nigeria.
However section 359(4) states that the pardon "does not affect any conviction or sentence." Since the nature of a pardon
is normally to commute a sentence, Gerald Howarth
MP asked during parliamentary debate: "we are entitled to ask what it does do."
It would appear to be a symbolic pardon only, and some members of Parliament had called for the convictions to be quashed, although the pardon has still been welcomed by relatives of executed soldiers.
The following orders have been made under section 383(2):
- ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 386 of this Act.
- ^ "NZ Herald: New Zealand's Latest News, Business, Sport, Weather, Entertainment, Politics". NZ Herald.[permanent dead link]
- ^ S.Walker Forgotten Soldiers Gill and MacMillan 2007 ISBN 978-0-7171-4182-1
- ^ Hansard, House of Commons, 7 November 2006, col. 772
Last edited on 17 September 2020, at 11:13
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