Court martial judge asked to quit trial over anti-war sailor

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THE trial of a navy medic who refused to go to war suffered a false-start when the judge was urged to stand down from the case.

Judge Alastair McGrigor was asked to step down by the lawyer representing navy medic Michael Lyons.

It comes after it emerged the QC had worked as a prosecutor for the Royal Air Force in the 2004 trial of Mohisin Khan, a Muslim air reservist who unsuccesfully absented himself from duty in Iraq as a conscientious objector.

Leading Medical Assistant Lyons had applied for conscientious objector status when he refused to take firearms training last September ahead of a tour of Afghanistan.

After his case was rejected he was charged with ‘wilful disobedience’ and appeared at a court martial at HMS Nelson, in Portsmouth, yesterday.

But before the 24-year-old could enter a plea, his defence barrister Fiona Edington raised concerns about Judge McGrigor.

Mrs Edington said she did not accuse the judge of bias but that his former job working on the RAF’s prosecution of Mr Khan could lead to the public questioning his impartiality in Lyons’ case.

She said: ‘It’s the appearance to the fair-minded and informed member of the public that I’m concerned with your honour.

‘I’m really asking your honour to consider your position and consider whether you should sit in this matter.’

It also emerged Judge McGrigor sat on the trial of Private Joe Glenton, who was jailed for nine months last year for going absent without leave instead of returning to duty in Afghanistan.

Judge McGrigor adjourned Lyons’ trial until April 14 to consider whether he should continue to sit on the case.

Lyons became disillusioned with the Afghanistan war after he was told saving military lives takes priority over civilians.

After reading about high losses of Aghan civilians on the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, Lyons applied for conscientious objector status and became the first person to appear before the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors since 1996.

The panel rejected his application on the grounds he was politically-motivated and not driven by moral conscience.

But while the committee’s decision was pending, he refused rifle training which has resulted in the court martial. If found guilty, he could get 10 years in prison.

Campaigners see the court martial as an attempt to deter other service personnel from opposing duty on grounds of conscience.