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Armed Forces Act 2006

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.

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