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Armed Forces Act 2006

Other supplementary provisions
Section 325: Evidential burden as respects excuses

643.It is a general principle of English criminal law that it is for the prosecution to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that an accused person is guilty of an offence. However an accused is sometimes subject to a burden in relation to the evidence, for example if he raises insanity as a defence. Statutes may expressly or impliedly impose such a burden on the accused. This section imposes such a burden on an accused if he raises a defence of lawful excuse or reasonable excuse. “Lawful excuse” is a defence, for example, to an offence of assisting an enemy under section 1 of the Act, and “reasonable excuse” is a defence, for example, to the offence of misconduct on operations (under section 2).

644.Under the criminal law of England and Wales there two main kinds of burden that could apply. One is a burden to prove something (which, in the case of an accused, would be on a balance of probabilities). The other burden is lower. It is not strictly one of proof, but only of bringing sufficient evidence to satisfy the judge (the judge advocate in the Court Martial) that there is an issue which should be left to those responsible for deciding the facts (such a jury or, in the case of the Court Martial, the panel of Service members). Section 323 provides that this lower burden applies to an accused in relation to a defence of lawful excuse or reasonable excuse.

Section 326: Exclusion of enactments requiring consent of Attorney General or DPP

645.This section makes it clear that proceedings under the Act for a service offence do not require the consent of the Attorney General or the Director of Public Prosecutions, even if proceedings for a corresponding civilian offence would require such consent. This does not affect section 61(2), which requires the consent of the Attorney General to the bringing of a charge once a time limit under any of sections 55 to 58 has expired.

Section 327: Local probation boards

646.Section 327 inserts a provision into the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (“the 2000 Act”) in substitution for a similar provision inserted into that Act by Schedule 16. The reason for this, and the effect of the inserted provision, is as follows.

647.Paragraph 178 of Schedule 16 inserts a new section – section 5A – into the 2000 Act. This provision empowers the Secretary of State to make arrangements for local probation boards to provide the full range of their professional services in respect of persons who appear before service courts. Examples of these services would include the preparation of pre-sentence reports, and the supervision of offenders subject to an overseas community order.

648.It is intended that paragraph 178 of Schedule 16 should come into force as soon as is practicable. As a consequence, the section it inserts into the 2000 Act is necessarily an interim measure, containing references to the SDAs (which are to be repealed by the Act) and to courts constituted under those Acts.

649.Section 327 is intended to come into force on the Act’s main commencement date, and sets out a new section 5A that is consistent with the rest of the Act, and is substituted for that inserted by Schedule 16. The amendment to the 2000 Act set out in this section is to the same effect as that inserted by Schedule 16.

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