“Catch-22”: Campaigners launch legal battle with MoD over recruitment of minors

• Campaigners lodge claim for judicial review of “Catch-22” rules, which force youngest recruits to serve for longest
• New poll: public support for raising armed forces’ enlistment age to 18 continues to grow

Child Soldiers International today launched a claim for judicial review of the terms of enlistment of minors joining the Army. If successful, the claim would reduce by up to two years the minimum service period of those signing up under the age of 18.

Although minors have a right to be discharged before their 18th birthday, after this point the so-called “Catch-22” clause commits them to serve until they are at least 22 years old, regardless of their age when they joined. This means the youngest recruits have to serve for longest – 16-year-old recruits have a total minimum service period of six years, while 17-year-olds must serve for five. In contrast, adults can be discharged after just four years’ service. Lawyers acting for the campaign group claim this constitutes unlawful age discrimination in employment conditions, and violates the Equal Treatment Directive 2000/78/EC.

The legislation being challenged (the Army Terms of Service Regulations 2007, as amended) and similar previous legislation has been strongly criticised for over 20 years by parliamentary bodies including the Armed Forces Bill Select Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

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