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The reform of military justice
chapterposted on 2016-01-01, 00:00 authored by A Duxbury, Matthew GrovesMatthew Groves
© Cambridge University Press 2016. At the conclusion of World War I a committee established by the United Kingdom Army Council was tasked with examining the ‘law and rules of procedure regulating Military Courts-Martial, both in peace and war, and to make recommendations’. In its 1919 report to Parliament, the committee began by noting the ‘enormous expansion of the Army during the European war’ and the ‘corresponding increase in the number of Courts-Martial’. Sadly, it also stated that the difficulties in dealing with the volume of legal work were exacerbated by the fact that ‘so many of the regular officers who were familiar with military law’ were lost in the first few months of the war. The need for reinforcements ‘rendered it impossible to devote much attention to the legal side of the training of new officers’. The committee was of the opinion that given the difficult circumstances, as a whole, the work of courts martial during the war was ‘well done’, although it made a number of recommendations for future improvements. Such recommendations included redrafting the Army’s disciplinary code to remove repetition and overlapping provisions and the appointment of trained legal advisers with experience in military discipline to assist in a number of matters, such as the work of courts martial and legal education. The committee commented on a range of matters, including the distinction between courts martial held on active service and in times of peace, the difficulties in ensuring justice while on operations, particularly where troops were in proximity to the enemy, and the rights of soldiers when charged with offences. In the (nearly) one hundred years since this report was written, the military justice system in the United Kingdom has been subject to a number of different reform efforts, not least due to the entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in 1953 and the adoption of the Human Rights Act 1998 (UK). Such reforms are not limited to the armed forces of the United Kingdom. As the chapters in this book demonstrate, military justice systems throughout the world, whether they are separate from the civilian justice system, as in the United Kingdom, or a part of that system, are in a state of transition.