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Armed Forces Act 2006

Neglect of duty and misconduct
Section 15: Failure to attend for or perform duty etc

72.Those who are subject to service law commit an offence if they fail to attend for duty, or leave duty before they are permitted to do so, or fail to perform a duty at all. Negligently performing a duty is also penalised.

Section 16: Malingering

73.This section is aimed at preventing a person who is subject to service law avoiding service either by pretending to be ill or injured or by harming himself (or arranging for someone else to harm him) (subsection (1)). It is also an offence for a person subject to service law to help another person subject to service law to avoid service by harming him (subsection (2)). Harm includes physical injury as well as any disease and any impairment of a person’s physical or mental condition.

Section 17: Disclosure of information useful to an enemy

74.A person who is subject to service law commits an offence if, without lawful authority, he discloses to someone else information which he knows or has reasonable cause to believe might be useful to an enemy. Service personnel might be authorised to make a particular disclosure or have general authority to disclose certain information; an obvious example of authorised disclosure would be to pass necessary information or orders to those in the same command. Conduct by service personnel which, in England and Wales, would be an offence under the Official Secrets Acts 1911 to 1989 will be a criminal conduct offence within section 42 of the Act, and more serious offences relating to disclosure of information are likely to be prosecuted under that section.

Section 18: Making false records etc

75.Persons subject to service law are required to make financial and other returns, and create documents on a wide range of matters. This section concerns improper conduct in relation to documents to be used for official purposes. Use for official purposes includes use by the armed forces themselves or by Crown servants such as Ministry of Defence officials. “Documents” are not just paper documents, but any record of information in any form, including computer records.

76.Improper conduct is defined as:

  • making an official record (knowing or having reasonable cause to believe that it is an official record) and being aware that it is false in a material respect (subsection (1))

  • interfering with or suppressing an official document in any way (for example by removing part of it, or destroying or concealing it), with the aim of deceiving someone else (subsection (3))

  • failing to make a record when under a duty to make one, with the aim of deceiving someone else (subsection (4)).

77.The offence under subsection (1) also applies to a person who adopts a record made by someone else which he knows to be false. This would include signing a record made by another so as to confirm its accuracy.

Section 19: Conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline

78.This section penalises conduct which is prejudicial to good order and service discipline. The offence is the same as that under section 69 of the Army Act 1955 (and similar provisions in other SDAs). Under that section it has been decided judicially that there will be circumstances in which conduct is prejudicial only if it is accompanied by a particular state of mind (such as dishonesty or an intention to prejudice service discipline).

Section 20: Unfitness or misconduct through alcohol or drugs

79.Service personnel who are unfit to be entrusted with their duty or any duty which they might reasonably be expected to perform, or whose behaviour is disorderly or likely to discredit the armed forces, due to the influence of alcohol or any drug, commit an offence.

80.“Drug” is not limited to those drugs whose possession is unlawful. It means any drug. However, an accused may raise a defence that a drug has been properly taken for a medicinal purpose, or taken or administered on the orders of a superior officer (that might, for example, be the case where a drug is taken as a precaution against the effects of a possible chemical or biological attack).

Section 21: Fighting or threatening behaviour etc

81.A person subject to service law commits an offence under this section if, without reasonable excuse, he (a) fights another person or (b) deliberately behaves in a way which is threatening, abusive, insulting or provocative. In the latter case his behaviour must also be likely to cause a disturbance.

Section 22: Ill-treatment of subordinates

82.This section is concerned with ill-treatment of a person subject to service law by anyone who is his superior in rank or authority (“superior officer” is defined in section 374). It penalises both intentional ill-treatment, and also recklessness on the part of a superior officer where, for example, he enforces excessively harsh discipline on a subordinate. The superior officer must know or have reasonable grounds to believe that the person mistreated is his subordinate. Where others are mistreated, criminal offences (such as assault) or disciplinary offences (such as conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline) might be appropriate.

Section 23: Disgraceful conduct of a cruel or indecent kind

83.Cruel or indecent conduct by service personnel is an offence if the circumstances, motive or other factors render it disgraceful. For example, killing an animal may be cruel but the circumstances, such as obtaining food to survive, may not render the conduct disgraceful, and this section would therefore not apply.

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