Wednesday, October 21, 2015

British military law should apply to Libyan troops?

Our esteemed editor spotted this article in The Herald Scotland relating to Libyan troops being trained by the British Army in Cambridgeshire. For those of you who missed the story, full details are here. In short, the trainees ran amok through the local village and two of their number then raped a passerby in Cambridge. They were swiftly arrested, tried in the (civilian) Crown Court and jailed for 12 years each. Following the attacks the rest of the trainees were sent home in disgrace and local media demanded to know why they had not been kept confined to barracks throughout their stay.

Maria Eagle, MP
Enter Miss Eagle . . .

Maria Eagle was formerly a minister under the last Labour Government in the UK and in September 2015 she was appointed shadow defence secretary. During the second reading of the Armed Forces Bill (the legal framework which allows the UK to maintain a standing army in peace time) which included some minor changes the Military Justice System in the UK Miss Eagle called for Libyan soldiers to be brought under British Military Law whilst serving in the UK.

Ok, well maybe this might work? 

If we accept Miss Eagle's argument at face value, what would have changed? Under a forces agreement the Royal Military Police investigated the offence (probably much more slowly as they have far less experience of such offences) before passing the matter on the the Service Prosecuting Authority who, having reviewed the file, would have directed the commanding officer to charge the soldiers. Then, following a delay, the matter would have been tried before the Court Martial (which currently has limited witness care facilities) and presumably the defendants would have been convicted and sentenced. They would then serve their sentence (as it would be more than two years) in a civilian prison. Oh, we're back where we started . . .

How would this affect the British Army? 

The British Army trains its soldiers all over the world, in Kenya, Belize, Saudi Arabia and Canada, amongst others. Additionally there is (and will be until 2020) a substantial garrison in Germany. Although matters are slightly different in Germany where ever in the world the British Army are they are subject to service law. Surely if Miss Eagle's plan went through there would be calls for British troops to be subject to Saudi service law? As Colonel (Rtd) Bob Stewart MP put it,

"We want our military law to extend to our servicemen wherever they are in the world."

Surely this is what any government would want when it sends their forces abroad either for training or for combat?

A question for Miss Eagle . . .

How should this matter have been dealt with? 'UK soldier jailed for rape of six-year-old girl in Austria'

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