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Armed Forces Act 2006

The Service Civilian Court: court and proceedings
Section 277: The Service Civilian Court

547.This section establishes a court to be known as the Service Civilian Court (“SCC”) which may sit anywhere outside the British Islands.

548.Section 278: Constitution and proceedings of the Service Civilian Court

549.This section provides that the SCC is to consist of a single judge advocate, to be specified by or on behalf of the Judge Advocate General. Unlike the present situation, the judge advocate will not be called a “magistrate” when he sits on the SCC. The section also introduces Schedule 10, which contains provision about proceedings of the SCC.

Section 279: Court must consider whether trial by Court Martial more appropriate

550.This section provides that, before the charge is put and a plea entered, the SCC must decide whether it or the Court Martial should try the charge. Before making this decision the SCC must give the prosecution the opportunity to inform it of any previous convictions the defendant has, and it must give the prosecution and the defendant an opportunity to make representations about which court should try the charge; this corresponds to the position to be introduced in the civilian system pursuant to amendments to the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 made by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

551.The matters that the SCC must take into account in making a decision are specified in this section and mirror those matters that the magistrates’ court must take into account when deciding whether to decline jurisdiction. Where the SCC declines jurisdiction it must refer the charge to the Court Martial.

Section 280: Right to elect trial by Court Martial instead of by SCC

552.This section provides that where the SCC decides that it should try a charge, the defendant must be given the opportunity before arraignment to elect to be tried by the Court Martial. If the defendant (or any defendant if a charge is charged jointly) elects to be tried by the Court Martial, the charge must be referred to the Court Martial (and where there are two or more charges against the defendant, an election in respect of one or more of the charges is deemed to be an election for all of them). Otherwise the SCC must try the charge. The practical effect of this section, section 279 and Part 5 is that the SCC will try a charge only where the DSP, the court and the defendant are content that it should do so.

Section 281: Power of SCC to convict of offence other than that charged

553.This section applies to the SCC the provisions of section 161 which provides the Court Martial with a power to convict a person of an offence other than the one charged, where it finds the person not guilty of the charge in the charge sheet and where the allegations in the charge sheet amount to or include an allegation of another service offence.

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