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Armed Forces Act 1996

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Commencement Orders bringing legislation that affects this Act into force:

Naval Discipline Act 1957 (c. 53)E+W+S+N.I.

49The Naval Discipline Act 1957 shall be amended as follows.E+W+S+N.I.

50Section 53 shall cease to have effect.E+W+S+N.I.

51After section 53 there shall be inserted the following sections—E+W+S+N.I.

53A Court administration officers.

In this Act—

  • court administration officer” means an officer (or other person) appointed by the Defence Council to order courts-martial and perform such other functions as may be prescribed by rules under section 58 of this Act; and

  • the court administration officer”, in relation to a court-martial, means the court administration officer who ordered the court-martial and includes his successor or any person for the time being exercising his or his successor’s functions.

53B Judge advocates.

(1)In this Act “the judge advocate”, in relation to a court-martial, means the judge advocate appointed by or on behalf of the Chief Naval Judge Advocate to be a member of the court-martial.

(2)No person shall be appointed as the judge advocate unless he is—

(a)a person who has a five year general qualification within the meaning of section 71 of the M1Courts and Legal Services Act 1990;

(b)an advocate in Scotland of at least five years’ standing or a solicitor who has had a right of audience in the Court of Session or the High Court of Justiciary for at least five years; or

(c)a member of the Bar of Northern Ireland of at least five years’ standing.

(3)Rulings and directions on questions of law (including questions of procedure and practice) shall be given by the judge advocate.

(4)Any directions given by the judge advocate shall be binding on the court.

53C Ordering of courts-martial.

(1)On being notified by the prosecuting authority of the charge preferred, a court administration officer shall order a court-martial.

(2)The order assembling the court-martial shall specify—

(a)the date, time and place at which the court-martial is to sit;

(b)the officers who are to be members of the court-martial;

(c)which of those officers is to be president of the court-martial;

(d)any other officers appointed for the purpose of filling vacancies,

and shall state that a judge advocate appointed by or on behalf of the Chief Naval Judge Advocate is to be a member of the court-martial.

(3)At any time before the commencement of the trial, the court administration officer may, in accordance with rules under section 58 of this Act, amend or withdraw the order assembling the court-martial.

(4)The following shall not be eligible to be members of a court-martial for the trial of a charge—

(a)the court administration officer;

(b)an officer who at any time between the date on which the preliminary charge was reported to the commanding officer of the accused and the date of the trial has been the commanding officer of the accused;

(c)the higher authority to whom the preliminary charge against the accused was referred;

(d)any other officer who has investigated the subject matter of the charge against the accused;

(e)any other officer who under this Act has held, or has acted as one of the persons holding, an inquiry into matters relating to the subject matter of the charge against the accused.

(5)In subsection (4) above “the preliminary charge” means the charge referred to higher authority by the commanding officer of the accused.

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52For section 54 there shall be substituted the following section—E+W+S+N.I.

54 Composition of courts-martial.

(1)A court-martial shall consist of the president, not less than four nor more than eight other naval officers and the judge advocate.

(2)An officer shall not be appointed a member of a court-martial unless he is of or above the rank of lieutenant and he has been an officer of any of Her Majesty’s naval, military or air forces for a period of not less than three years or for periods amounting in the aggregate to not less than three years.

(3)The officers appointed members of a court-martial shall not all belong to the same ship or naval establishment.

(4)The president of a court-martial shall not be below the rank of captain, and in the case of a court-martial for the trial of an officer of flag rank shall be an officer of flag rank.

(5)A court-martial for the trial of an officer of flag rank shall not include any member below the rank of captain.

(6)A court-martial for the trial of a commodore or captain shall not include any member below the rank of commander.

(7)A court-martial for the trial of a commander shall include at least two members, in addition to the president, who are not below the rank of commander.

(8)If, in the opinion of the court administration officer, the necessary number of naval officers having suitable qualifications is not, with due regard to the public service, available, he may appoint as any member of the court (but not as its president) any military or air-force officer of corresponding rank to that required for a naval officer.

(9)In this section—

  • air-force officer” means an officer belonging to Her Majesty’s air forces and subject to air-force law;

  • military officer” means an officer belonging to Her Majesty’s military forces and subject to military law; and

  • naval officer” means an officer belonging to Her Majesty’s naval forces and subject to this Act.

53Section 55 shall cease to have effect.E+W+S+N.I.

54(1)Section 56 (place and time of sittings of courts-martial) shall be amended as follows.E+W+S+N.I.

(2)In subsection (1), for the words from “appointed" to the end there shall be substituted the words “ specified in the order assembling the court ”.

(3)In subsection (2), the words from “and shall" to the end shall cease to have effect.

(4)In subsection (3), for the word “prosecutor" there shall be substituted the words “ prosecuting authority ”.

55After section 56 there shall be inserted the following section—E+W+S+N.I.

56A Dissolution of courts-martial.

(1)Where, before the commencement of the trial, it appears to the court administration officer necessary or expedient in the interests of the administration of justice that a court-martial be dissolved, he may by order dissolve the court-martial.

(2)Where, after the commencement of the trial, it appears to the judge advocate necessary or expedient in the interests of the administration of justice that a court-martial be dissolved, he may by order dissolve the court-martial.

(3)If after the commencement of the trial the president dies or is otherwise unable to attend, the court-martial shall be dissolved.

(4)Where a court-martial is dissolved the accused may be tried by another court.

56(1)Section 57 (quorum) shall be amended as follows.E+W+S+N.I.

(2)Subsections (1) and (3) shall cease to have effect.

(3)In subsection (2)—

(a)for the word “members" in both places it appears there shall be substituted the word “ officers ”; and

(b)after the word “that" there shall be inserted the words “ an officer appointed ”.

57For section 58 there shall be substituted the following section—E+W+S+N.I.

58 Rules.

(1)The Secretary of State may make rules with respect to—

(a)the investigation, prosecution and trial of, and the awarding of punishment for, offences cognizable by courts-martial;

(b)the review of findings and sentences of courts-martial.

(2)Rules under this section may in particular make provision with respect to—

(a)proceedings preliminary to trials by courts-martial;

(b)the appointment of a judge advocate for any preliminary proceedings;

(c)the delegation by court administration officers of any of their functions;

(d)the ordering and composition of courts-martial;

(e)the sittings, adjournment and dissolution of courts-martial;

(f)the procedure to be followed in trials by courts-martial;

(g)the functions of the clerk of the court and the exercise by him of those functions;

(h)the representation of the accused at trials by courts-martial and any preliminary proceedings;

(i)procuring the attendance of witnesses at such trials and any preliminary proceedings;

(j)enabling a court-martial, in such cases and to such extent as may be prescribed by the rules, to amend a charge which is being tried by the court;

(k)enabling a court-martial, where the particulars proved or admitted at the trial differ from those alleged in the charge but are sufficient to support a finding of guilty of the like offence as that charged, to make a finding of guilty subject to exceptions or variations specified in the finding if it appears to the court that the difference is not so material as to have prejudiced the accused in his defence;

(l)directing that the powers conferred by section 7 of the M2Bankers’ Books Evidence Act 1879 (which enables orders to be made for the inspection of bankers’ books for the purposes of legal proceedings) may be exercised for the purposes of a court-martial (whether within or without the United Kingdom) by the commanding officer of the accused or a judge advocate, as well as by the court or a judge within the meaning of that Act;

(m)the forms of orders and other documents to be made for the purposes of any provision of this Act or of rules under this section;

(n)the cases in which, and extent to which, offences may be taken into consideration by a court-martial and the powers of the court in relation to any offences taken into consideration;

(o)the recording of the proceedings of a court-martial;

(p)the procedure to be followed on review of findings and sentences of courts-martial.

(3)Rules made by virtue of paragraph (j) of subsection (2) above shall secure that the power to amend charges is not exercisable in circumstances substantially different from those in which indictments are amendable by a civil court in England, or otherwise than subject to the like conditions, as nearly as circumstances admit, as those subject to which indictments are so amendable.

(4)Rules under this section which are inconsistent with the provisions of this Act shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.

(5)Rules under this section shall be made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

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Marginal Citations

58(1)Section 59 (challenges by accused to members of court-martial) shall be amended as follows.E+W+S+N.I.

(2)In subsection (1)—

(a)after the words “Before the" there shall be inserted the words “ officers appointed ”;

(b)for the words “officers constituting" there shall be substituted the words “ members of ”; and

(c)for the words from “being" to the end there shall be substituted the words “ any of those members ”.

(3)In subsection (2)—

(a)for the word “officer" there shall be substituted the word “ member ”; and

(b)for the words from “considered" to the end there shall be substituted the words “ determined by the judge advocate ”.

(4)For subsection (3) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

(3)If an objection to the president is allowed, the court shall be dissolved.

(5)In subsection (4)—

(a)for the words from “objection" to “the member" there shall be substituted the words “ an objection to any other officer appointed a member of the court is allowed ”;

(b)for the word “nominated" there shall be substituted the word “ appointed ”; and

(c)for the words “section fifty-four" there shall be substituted the words “ section 53C ”.

(6)After subsection (4) there shall be inserted the following subsection—

(4A)If an objection to the judge advocate is allowed, the judge advocate shall retire and another judge advocate shall be appointed by or on behalf of the Chief Naval Judge Advocate.

(7)Subsection (5) shall cease to have effect.

(8)In subsection (6)—

(a)after the words “After the" there shall be inserted the words “ officers appointed ”; and

(b)for the words “Defence Council" there shall be substituted the words “ reviewing authority ”.

59(1)Section 60 (administration of oaths) shall be amended as follows.E+W+S+N.I.

(2)For subsection (1) there shall be substituted the following subsection—

(1)An oath shall be administered separately to each member of a court-martial, to the clerk of the court and any officer or other person in attendance for instruction, and to any person appointed to attend as interpreter.

(3)In subsection (5), for the words “General Orders" there shall be substituted the word “ rules ”.

60In section 61 (courts-martial to sit in open court), after subsection (2) there shall be added the following subsections—E+W+S+N.I.

(3)A court-martial shall sit in closed court while deliberating on their finding and sentence on any charge.

(4)A court-martial may sit in closed court on any other deliberation amongst the members.

(5)Where a court-martial sits in closed court no person shall be present except the members of the court and such other persons as may be prescribed by rules under section 58 of this Act.

(6)The judge advocate shall not be present while the other members of the court are deliberating on their finding on any charge.

(7)Any ruling or direction of the judge advocate on a question of law (including a question of procedure or practice) shall be given in open court.

(8)The judge advocate may determine, and give rulings on, questions of law (including questions of procedure and practice) in the absence of the other members of the court.

61(1)Section 62 (findings and sentences of courts-martial) shall be amended as follows.E+W+S+N.I.

(2)In subsection (1), for the words from “every" to “court-martial" there shall be substituted the words “ the finding of a court-martial and any sentence awarded ”.

(3)After subsection (1) there shall be inserted the following subsection—

(1A)The judge advocate shall not be entitled to vote on the finding.

(4)In subsection (3), after the word “mercy" there shall be inserted the words “ and any reasons for the sentence ”.

(5)In subsection (4)—

(a)after the word “court" in the second place it appears there shall be inserted the words “ entitled to vote on the finding ”; and

(b)for the words “the members" in the second place they appear there shall be substituted the words “ those members ”.

62In section 64(1) (summoning of witnesses), for the words “clerk of the court" there shall be substituted the words “ court administration officer ”.E+W+S+N.I.

63After section 64 there shall be inserted the following sections—E+W+S+N.I.

64A Rules of evidence

(1)The rules as to the admissibility of evidence to be observed in proceedings before courts-martial shall, subject to Schedule 13 to the M3Criminal Justice Act 1988 (evidence before courts-martial etc) and to service modifications, be the same as those observed in trials on indictment in England, and no person shall be required in proceedings before a court-martial to answer any question or to produce any document which he could not be required to answer or produce in similar proceedings in a trial on indictment in England.

(2)In this section “service modifications” means such modifications as the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument prescribe, being modifications which appear to him to be necessary or proper for the purposes of proceedings before a court-martial; and it is hereby declared that in this section—

  • rules” includes rules contained in or made by virtue of an enactment; and

  • enactment” includes an enactment contained in an Act passed after this Act.

(3)Regulations under subsection (2) above shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(4)A court-martial shall take judicial notice of all matters of notoriety, including all matters within the general service knowledge of the court, and of all other matters of which judicial notice would be taken in a trial on indictment in England.

64B Proofs at courts-martial by written statement

(1)Without prejudice to section 64A above, section 9 of the M4Criminal Justice Act 1967 (proof by written statement) shall apply subject to subsection (2) below and to service modifications, for the purposes of proceedings before courts-martial (whether held in the United Kingdom or not) as it applies to proceedings on indictment.

(2)The statements rendered admissible by this section are statements made—

(a)in the United Kingdom by any person, and

(b)outside the United Kingdom by any person who at the time of making the statement was—

(i)a person subject to service law, or

(ii)a person to whom Parts I and II of this Act are applied by section 117 or section 118 of this Act, or to whom Part II of the M5Army Act 1955 or Part II of the M6Air Force Act 1955 is applied by section 208A or section 209 of the Army Act 1955 or the Air Force Act 1955 respectively,

and the persons mentioned in this paragraph include persons to whom section 119 of this Act, section 131 of the Army Act 1955 or section 131 of the Air Force Act 1955 apply.

(3)In subsection (1) above “service modifications” means—

(a)modifications made by any regulations under section 12 of the M7Criminal Justice Act 1967 in force on the coming into force of this section, and

(b)such modifications in the said section 9, as applied by subsection (1) above, as the Secretary of State may by regulations made by statutory instrument prescribe thereafter, being modifications which appear to him to be necessary or proper for the purpose of the operation of that section in relation to proceedings before a court-martial.

(4)Regulations under subsection (3)(b) above shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.

(5)Section 89 of the said Act of 1967 (punishment of making false statements tendered under section 9) shall apply to any statement rendered admissible by this section.

64C Proof of service facts and records.

(1)This section applies with respect to proceedings before a court-martial.

(2)A letter, return or other document stating that any person—

(a)was or was not serving at any specified time or during any specified period in any part of Her Majesty’s forces;

(b)was discharged from any part of those forces at or before any specified time;

(c)held or did not hold at any specified time any specified rank or appointment in any of those forces;

(d)had at or before any specified time been attached, posted or transferred to any part of those forces;

(e)at any specified time or during any specified time was or was not serving or held or did not hold any rank or appointment in any particular country or place; or

(f)was or was not at any specified time authorised to use or wear any decoration, badge or emblem;

shall if purporting to be issued by or on behalf of the Defence Council or by a person authorised by them, be evidence of the matter stated in the document.

(3)A record—

(a)made in any service record in pursuance of any Act or of Queen’s Regulations, or otherwise in pursuance of naval duty; and

(b)purporting to be signed by the commanding officer or by any person whose duty it was to make or keep the records,

may be received without formal proof in all trials under this Act as prima facie evidence of the record.

(4)A copy of a record (including the signature thereto) such as is mentioned in subsection (3) above, purporting to be certified to be a true copy by a person stated in the certificate to have the custody of the record, may be received without formal proof in all trials under this Act as prima facie evidence of the record.

(5)A document purporting to be issued by order of the Defence Council and to contain instructions given or regulations made by the Defence Council shall be evidence of the giving of the instructions or making of the regulations and of their contents.

(6)A certificate purporting to be issued by or on behalf of the Defence Council or by a person authorised by them, and stating—

(a)that a decoration of a description specified in, or as annexed to, the certificate is a military, naval or air force decoration; or

(b)that a badge or emblem of a description specified in, or as annexed to, the certificate is one supplied or authorised by the Defence Council;

shall be evidence of the matters stated in the certificate.

(7)A certificate purporting to be signed by a person’s commanding officer or any officer authorised by him to give the certificate, and stating the contents of, or of any part of, standing orders or other routine orders of a continuing nature made for—

(a)any ship, train or aircraft;

(b)any formation or unit or body of Her Majesty’s forces; or

(c)any command or other area, or place;

shall in proceedings against that person be evidence of the matters stated in the certificate.

(8)Any document which would be evidence in any proceedings under the M8Army Act 1955 or the M9Air Force Act 1955 shall in like manner, subject to the like conditions, and for the like purposes, be evidence in a court-martial under this Act.

64D Privilege of witnesses and others at courts-martial

A witness before a court-martial or any other person whose duty it is to attend on or before the court shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as a witness before the High Court in England.

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