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Armed Forces Act 2006


506.Chapter 2 of Part 9 sets out the sentencing principles and procedures which apply to service courts but not to summary hearings.

Section 255: Individual sentence for each offence

507.At present, a court-martial (unlike a civilian court) passes a single sentence on an offender, even if he is convicted of two or more offences. A Standing Civilian Court, on the other hand, passes a separate sentence for each offence. This section requires both the Court Martial and the SCC to pass a separate sentence for each offence. (A CO and the SAC, by contrast, pass a single sentence for all the offences proved: see sections 131 and 147.)

Section 256: Pre-sentence reports

508.This section requires a service court to obtain and consider a pre-sentence report when considering whether to pass a discretionary custodial sentence, a sentence of dismissal, dismissal with disgrace or service detention, or a community punishment; for how long a custodial sentence, or one of service detention, should be passed; or whether there is a significant risk of the offender causing serious harm by committing further offences, so that sections 219 to 222 apply. The pre-sentence report is based on an interview and analysis of the defendant and his offending history and needs. It will contain advice about what punishment might be appropriate, and what rehabilitative work would be likely to prove effective in reducing the risk of re-offending. The section reflects section 156 of the 2003 Act.

509.Subsection (2) allows the court to dispense with the requirement to obtain a pre-sentence report if it considers that it does not need one. But, if the offender is under 18, under subsection (3) the court must not do this unless there is already a report on the offender and the court has considered that.

510.Under subsection (4), no sentence is invalidated by a court’s failure to obtain and consider a pre-sentence report, even where the court was required to do so.

511.If the defendant appeals to the CMAC or the Court Martial against a custodial sentence, a sentence of dismissal, dismissal with disgrace or service detention, or a community punishment, and the lower court did not obtain a pre-sentence report, subsections (5) and (6) require the appellate court to obtain and consider a report unless it thinks that the original court was justified in not obtaining one, or that a report is not now needed. If the offender is under 18, however, subsection (7) requires the appellate court to obtain a report unless it has considered a report previously obtained.

Section 257: Pre-sentence reports: supplementary

512.This section applies the definition of a “pre-sentence report” in the 2003 Act for the purposes of section 256, but allows reports to be prepared for service courts by social workers as well as probation officers.

513.Subsection (4) applies the relevant provisions of section 159 of the 2003 Act, which requires copies of a written report to be given to the offender or his legal representative and the prosecutor. If the offender is under 18 a copy must also be given to any parent or guardian of his who is in court; but a complete copy need not be given to such an offender, or to his parent or guardian, if this would create a risk of significant harm to the offender. The prosecutor must not use the report for any purpose except making representations to the court about the contents of the report.

Section 258: Mentally disordered offenders: requirement for medical report

514.This section requires a service court to obtain and consider a medical report before passing a custodial sentence (other than one fixed by law) on an offender who is, or appears to be, mentally disordered, unless the court considers that no such report is needed. The court must consider any information before it relating to the offender’s mental condition, and the likely effect of a custodial sentence on that condition and on any treatment which may be available for it. If the court does not obtain a medical report this does not invalidate the sentence, but on an appeal against sentence the appellate court must obtain and consider a medical report. The section reflects section 157 of the 2003 Act.

Section 259: Sentencing guidelines

515.This section requires a service court to have regard to any relevant guidelines issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council under section 170(9) of the 2003 Act, but provides that it may depart from such guidelines if it thinks this is justified by any relevant features of service life or the service disciplinary system.

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