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Armed Forces Act 2006

Chapter 1 – The Court Martial
Section 154: The Court Martial

318.This section establishes the Court Martial as a standing court which may sit anywhere within or outside the UK. This is a departure from the present situation where courts-martial are convened on an ad hoc basis.

Section 155: Constitution of the Court Martial

319.This section provides for the membership of the court for Court Martial proceedings. In proceedings before the Court Martial there is to be a judge advocate, who shall be specified by or on behalf of the Judge Advocate General, and lay members who will be specified by or on behalf of the court administration officer. In most proceedings the required minimum number of lay members will be three. This is in recognition of the fact that the majority of cases that are dealt with by the Court Martial equate to those heard in the magistrates’ courts in England and Wales where the Bench is comprised of three lay members. However, for more serious cases the minimum required will be five. When the minimum is to increase to five will be set down in rules made under section 163. This section also provides for rules to be made that will set out when a judge advocate may direct the court administration officer to specify up to two additional members of the court. This will help to avoid trials collapsing if a lay member dropped out for some reason. Finally the rules will also be able to set down when a judge advocate may sit alone, for example, when arraigning a person or hearing arguments on the law.

Section 156: Officers and warrant officers qualified for membership of the Court Martial

320.This section provides for the general principle that officers and warrant officers may be members of the Court Martial. Officers must have held their commission for at least three years (or periods totalling 3 years), or have been warrant officers immediately prior to their commission. Only substantive, not acting, warrant officers are qualified to be members of the Court Martial. There are exceptions to these general qualifications for membership, and these are listed in the section. The purpose of these exceptions is to avoid the potential of any real or perceived bias through, for example, the involvement of persons connected to the service disciplinary system in a trial.

Section 157: Officers and warrant officers ineligible for membership in particular circumstances

321.This section provides for the circumstances in which officers and warrant officers who are otherwise qualified are nevertheless ineligible for membership of the Court Martial for a particular trial because of their involvement in investigating the charge or a command relationship with the accused.

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