Military Law

Are you facing an interview conducted by the Royal Military Police (RMP) or Special Investigations Branch (SIB)? Have you been informed that your case would proceed to a Court Martial?

As a member of the Armed Forces, your legal needs will be somewhat different to civilians and will require knowledge of military law. We have experience in dealing with any disciplinary and criminal matters within the Armed Forces, whether you are Army, Navy, or RAF personnel in the UK or abroad.

What is Military Law?

Military law is enforced by the service police, whether that be the Royal Military Police, the RAF Police or the Royal Navy Police, and it governs members of the British Armed Forces whether serving at home or abroad. Military law is different from civilian law as it is based on rules and regulations within the Armed Forces. Its purpose is to maintain good order and discipline and ensure those serving in the Armed Forces carry out their duties to a high standard.

There are different branches of military law, which include:

Service discipline law – covering matters such as service discipline and conduct for personnel deployed in the UK or abroad.

Operational law – including International Humanitarian Law and the Law of Armed Conflict, covering issues such as the use of force and the rules of engagement.

Interviews by service police

If the service police wish to interview you under caution, you have the right to choose who represents you in that interview. How you approach an interview by service police could have a detrimental effect on your career, and therefore it is extremely important to seek specialist advice before going into any interview.

Our first action is to obtain the pre-interview disclosure from the service police to ascertain the basis upon which you are suspected of any allegation. Once we have this, we will advise you as to whether it is in your best interests to participate in the interview and, if so, whether it would be best to answer questions, provide a written statement and then exercise your right to silence, or simply to exercise your right to silence.

Decision after interview

Following the interview process, the service police will continue their investigations. Once they have been completed – depending on the offence for which you have been interviewed – the matter will either be referred to the Service Prosecution Authority (SPA) or your Commanding Officer (CO) for a decision.

If the matter is referred to the SPA for consideration, they must apply what is referred to as the “Full Code Test”. This is a two-pronged test assessing the evidence in support of the offence and whether it is in the public interest to issue proceedings.

  1. Evidential Stage

The SPA must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. This must be based on an objective assessment of the evidence and include consideration of any defence raised or other information presented by the suspect. Cases that do not pass the evidential stage must not proceed irrespective of how serious or sensitive the allegation is.

  1. Public Interest Stage

If the evidential stage is satisfied, then the SPA must consider whether it is in the public interest to charge you with the alleged offence. The public interest test applied by the SPA differs slightly from the civilian Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) as the SPA also must consider the ‘service interest’ of proceeding with a prosecution.

If your CO or the SPA concludes that there is sufficient evidence to charge you with an offence, matters will either progress to a summary hearing or Court Martial. There is no right to be legally represented during a summary hearing, and therefore it is extremely important that you seek legal advice before making the decision to have your case dealt with by your CO rather than at a Court Martial.

Criminal defence solicitors

As well as dealing with military law, our criminal defence solicitors are experts in civilian criminal law. This means that if you are interviewed by civilian police or find yourself before a civilian Magistrates or Crown Court, we will be fully aware of the implications criminal proceedings could have on your career and we will be able to advise and represent you to best effect.

We can offer representation at interviews with service or civilian police as well as representation at Court Martial proceedings on a privately funded basis.

Contact Birkett Long

Birkett Long has a dedicated team of military solicitors who are committed to providing specialist legal advice to all Service Personnel. 

If you wish to discuss any legal issues of a military nature, please do not hesitate to contact Zoe Hosking on 01206 217323 or 07759526645.