Labour calls for civilian court trials for rapes and serious offences in the military

THE Ministry of Defence has come under attack for its ‘shamefully low’ prosecution rates of rape and other serious crimes, prompting calls for civilian courts to take over.

Thursday, 11th March 2021, 3:36 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th March 2021, 5:57 pm

Labour’s shadow armed forces minister, Stephen Morgan, launched the attack as it was revealed just 13 convictions had been secured since 2015 out of 128 court martial hearings.

Figures from the MoD show that between 2015 and 2019, the conviction rate for rape cases tried under court martial was just 10 per cent.

During the same period, the conviction rate was 59 per cent in civilian courts, with considerably more cases being tried each year.

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Stephen Morgan MP Picture: Chris Moorhouse (060619-20)

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Almost half (48 per cent) of sexual assaults in the armed forces in 2019 took place in the UK, and more than three quarters (77 per cent) of the victims were women. Almost half of victims held the rank of Private.

Portsmouth South MP Mr Morgan is set to table an amendment to the Armed Forces Bill seeking to ensure the most serious crimes committed by serving military personnel are investigated and tried in civilian courts and not at a court martial.

Mr Morgan said: ‘The conviction rate for serious offences like rape in military courts is shamefully low. Yet the government has refused to ensure these cases are investigated and tried in civilian courts, ignoring the recommendations of a judge-led inquiry.

‘Trying the most serious offences in civilian courts would help improve conviction rates, but ministers refuse to recognise this reality and seem content with a fudge that will leave personnel vulnerable.

‘Labour wants the government’s Armed Forces Bill to provide appropriate support, protection and access to justice for our armed forces.’

The amendment follows calls from campaigners, as well as recommendations from a government-commissioned, judge-led review into the service justice system.

Last year, three women who were victims of rape or sexual assault while serving bought a legal challenge against the Ministry of Defence on the issue.

A spokeswoman for the MoD said: ‘The service justice system is able to deal with all types of offending throughout the world, including the most serious offences.

‘It is not possible to make meaningful statistical comparisons between the service and civilian justice systems as the relatively low number of SJS cases make the case rates more likely to fluctuate.

‘An independent audit of the service police after the Lyons Review concluded that service police have the necessary training, skills and experience to carry out investigations into serious sexual offences.’

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