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Army discipline rules are 'bullies charter'
22/11/2012

Defence Management

The rules on handling discipline and complaints in the British Army have created a 'kangaroo court' system and act as a 'bullies charter' for senior officers, an Army officer has reportedly claimed.

Channel 4 News, quoting a report submitted to the Defence Select Committee's inquiry into the work of the Service Complaints Commissioner, said that an unnamed officer believed the current system was "rarely transparent or accountable and frequently unlawful".

The officer called for a "root and branch overhaul" of Army General Administrative Instruction 67 (AGAI 67) saying it contains "no safeguards to protect junior personnel from the chain of command... and nothing to prevent dishonest commanders from pursuing vendettas against those over whom they exercise power".

According to the report, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force lawyers have questioned the legality of AGAI 67's power to deny legal representation, refuse witness and protect favoured individuals.

The summary hearings allowed by the rules, which are said to have a 90 per cent conviction rate, are in breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the officer wrote.

"I would argue that the military's behaviour should be transparent, accountable and lawful - and that at present it is rarely transparent or accountable and frequently unlawful," he concluded. "While a parallel legal system is necessary to satisfy the requirements of both the military's unique role (the application of lethal force on behalf of the nation) and its potentially expeditionary nature (ie outwith the jurisdiction of the UK courts), the service justice system which administers this should be both independent and professional."

The report also said that the Service Complaints Commissioner lacks the powers needed to properly investigate complaints of bullying and abuse to continue. Those who complained were victimised, it said, because of the need to maintain the "power and prestige of the chain of command".

"The lessons of Deepcut ...have been ignored by the Ministry of Defence," the report said, arguing that the Service Complaints Commissioner should be given the powers of an ombudsman.

An Army spokesperson said: "Soldiers should always receive fair and transparent treatment. Anything less is unacceptable. If any individual has concerns about this process there are a number of robust routes that they can pursue.

"We have not had sight of this report so cannot comment further on its findings. We look forward to receiving a copy so we can consider its findings in full."

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