Government commits to more transparency on handling murder and rape in military

Defence minister Leo Docherty
Defence minister Leo Docherty

Defence minister Leo Docherty expects publishing more data on serious offences 'to justify our confidence in the service justice system'

Published

The Government has committed to publishing more comprehensive data on how sexual and serious offences progress through the military justice system, as it rejected an amendment from the House of Lords that such cases should be routinely dealt with in civilian courts.

Defence minister Leo Docherty said he expects the data “to justify our confidence in the service justice system”.

A Lords amendment to the Armed Forces Bill sought to ensure that the most serious charges against serving personnel, including murder, manslaughter, domestic violence, child abuse and rape, are heard in civilian rather than military courts.

The Government rejected the amendment, but offered a concession in the form of “an expansion and an improvement” in the data it publishes about how such cases progress through the military justice system.

Labour said it wants to see such offences dealt with in civilian courts if they are alleged to be committed in the UK.

Shadow defence minister Stephen Kinnock said: “The investigation and prosecution of these crimes within the service justice system simply does not work.”

Conservative Sarah Atherton, MP for Wrexham, said: “I fail to see how collecting even more data, more data on serious offences as proposed by the MoD will translate into improvements for the outcomes of victims of rape.”

Mr Docherty said the Government would publish data on cases of murder, manslaughter, sexual offence cases involving personnel who are under 18, domestic violence, and child sexual abuse.

He said the data will include the number of reported incidents, how many cases are referred from the service police, how many cases the service prosecution authority are able to prosecute, how many cases go to court martial, and how many result in a guilty verdict.

Mr Docherty said: “We believe this will increase the transparency of the service justice system, and increase confidence in the system, and we welcome this scrutiny.

“Greater reporting will demonstrate the good work we are doing through this Bill, not least the establishment of the defence serious crime unit.

“And it’s right that the data is available to hold Government to account.”

The Government also rejected a Lords amendment which would force the Secretary of State to lay a report before Parliament, no later than six months after the Bill is passed, detailing the implications of not applying the same legal responsibility to have “due regard under the Armed Forces Covenant to central government as the Act requires of local authorities and other public bodies”.

The Government’s position was approved without a formal vote, and the Bill will now return to the House of Lords.