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Armed Forces Act 2006

Insubordination etc
Section 11: Misconduct towards a superior officer

64.This section penalises misconduct by a person subject to service law towards a superior officer. “Superior officer” is defined by section 374 as an officer, warrant officer or non-commissioned officer of senior rank or rate to the offender or of the same rank or rate but having authority over him. The offender must know or have reasonable cause to believe that his misconduct is directed towards a superior officer. Misconduct means:

  • violence against a superior officer (subsection (1))

  • threatening or disrespectful behaviour towards a superior officer (subsection (2))

65.The misconduct referred to in subsection (2) includes sending communications which are threatening or disrespectful (such as by a note or e-mail) to a superior; and threatening behaviour is not limited to threats of violence. It would include, for example, a threat to damage the superior’s property (subsection (3)).

66.The maximum penalty for an offence involving violence or threatening behaviour is ten years’ imprisonment; disrespectful behaviour is punishable with a maximum of two years’ imprisonment.

Section 12: Disobedience to lawful commands

67.Obedience to lawful commands is central to service discipline. A person who is subject to service law and intentionally or recklessly disobeys a lawful command commits an offence. A command in the armed forces means any order apart from routine and standing orders, which are dealt with in section 13. A person who is negligent in carrying out a command (by failing, for example, to consider what the order really meant) does not commit an offence under this section. There is a separate offence which applies to negligent breaches of duty (section 15).

68.An order must be lawful; an order to do something which would amount to a crime, for example, would not be lawful.

69.The maximum penalty for this offence is ten years’ imprisonment, which reflects the fact that obedience to some commands may be vital to the success of an operation. (This may be contrasted with the maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment for contravening standing orders, which are more routine in character.)

Section 13: Contravention of standing orders

70.Standing orders are routine orders, in writing, which are not temporary, and are issued by the services. An example is the routine orders governing conduct on a particular base. Such orders are likely to include rules on such matters as security or conduct. A breach of standing orders by a person subject to service law or a civilian subject to service discipline is an offence, but only if they are aware, or could reasonably be expected to be aware, of the order in question. So, for example, a civilian member of a service family living on a military base abroad could in most circumstances be reasonably expected to know of the standing orders applicable to that base. As with section 12, the order itself must be lawful.

Section 14: Using force against a sentry etc

71.This section reflects the importance of accepting the instructions of service personnel controlling the movement of members of the armed forces, in particular sentries (whether at a post or patrolling) and those regulating traffic. It is an offence for a person subject to service law to use force against such a member of the armed forces or, by the threat of force, to compel such a member to let him or any other person pass.

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