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2 September:  I know this has been debated before, but John Pollock raises a valid point about the absence of perceived fairness in the whole system of redresses of grievance. When I was serving, nobody believed that a redress was worth the effort because the system would never rule against itself. So what was the point? Soldiers need somewhere they can get unbiased advice on problems from eg people who understand there way of life and who have the know how and financial muscle to challenge the system. Don't get me wrong, I loved my time in the army and I still think it's a great way of life for young folk. But the system is far from perfect. Squaddies need some sort of independent representation to look after them and to monitor their terms of service. The modern army should look out, there's a freight train on the line.     Peter Sullivan
29 August:  So MI5 are to get a union. What about the military then? The Eurpoean Convention talks of the right of association. Fat chance in the army. Then what about redressis of grievance that get binned because top brass don't like to upset the way things have always been done? The squaddy is always going to get the rough end when he comes up against TPTB. They are not independent and they don't care about the squaddy, only uphodling the CO. Who is there for the soldier to get advice from in these cases. No one unless he shells out loads of cash for a civvy brief. But access to justice never was a strong point for the military was it, only perpetuation of the system? Human Rights are a dream that many soldiers will never see materialise into reality. The government should uphold its commitment and make sure the services introduce changes that mean something to the individuals.     John Pollock
Not sure that all of what you say is strictly true, John. On the point about access to advice, in Germany the soldier does have access to the excellent legal advice facility of Army Legal Aid in Bielefeld. That service is free of charge. As for unions, well we've been round this buoy before .....Aspals
14 August:  A short comment 'cos I've stumbled on these pages late in the day; several previous postings suggest that soldiers should somehow forego those rights accorded to civilian counterparts because they receive the x-factor. This is fundamentally flawed logic. I am supposed to receive pay similar to civilians carrying out the same work-in my case police officers. On top of this should be added the x factor. The reality is after 5 years service I earn the same as a probationer bobby, so please if the argument is to deny us our rights, do away with this tired nonsensensical argument-or increase the x-factor substantially. Anonymous#2
14 August:  I am trying to access news pages - has this been constructed ? Anonymous
In view of the number of updates we now do, News Items now has a page of its own. You can access this from the "Latest News" link in the left-hand frame. In fact, to save on-line time, you can access the page and then close your internet connection. Any opened web pages will have been cached and clicking their links will take you back to them, even though you are no longer on-line. The java window on the Aspals index page will continue to bring headlines of the main stories and, of course, the page will now detail military-lego specific topics. Our Site Map page traces changes to the site for the current month. If you have any further problems or queries, please do not hesitate to contact us. Aspals
6 August:  Having had the chance to read the Armed forces Discipline Act 2000, am I the only one who thinks that the provisions are a very poor copy of the custody provisions from PACE. Also with Human rights act coming into force in October of this year, surely the fact the CO's authorise initial custody and then any extensions this will put them in a bad position, i.e questions as to their impartiality? Surely the coming into force of HRA will see more challenges to the court martial system and even the summary dealings procedure, being contrary to Art 6 ECHR. As i have just started my dissertation on military law and the courts martial system I would like to contact Gilbert blades for his thoughts on recent legislation and the Findlay case. Does anyone know a contact address or e-mail Andrew Goldsborough
A contact address for Mr Gilbert Blades will be found by doing a solicitor search from the Chambers Link in Section 6 of the Index page, found at: Index Page. Afternote: It does not appear that Mr Blades is registered there! A direct approach has been made by other means. Aspals
29 July:  Congratulations for losing no time in reporting the Darren Bartlett case. I am not sure if you are aware of the Court Martial Appeal case of NICHOLAS JOHN CRANE No. 9903200 S2 judgment delivered 18 January 2000, although we have only just received a transcript. It was an RAF case, a DCM at Coltishall on 24 March 1999. The issue was whether the prosecutor was in error in asking the complainant in an assault case whether he had any previous convictions. He was a man of good character and had never been convicted. On the other hand the appellant, a corporal aged 33 had on two previous occasions been found guilty of offences of violence. The respondent to the appeal accepted that the question ought not to have been put. It had been settled for many years that it is not open to a party in chief to seek to enhance the credibility of his own witness. See R v Turner 1975 QB 834 - 'in general evidence can be called to impugn the credibility of witnesses but not led in chief to bolster it up' See also R v Errol Hamilton. The appeal court concluded that the conviction was unsafe All the best Gilbert
21 July:  The decision of the ICTY Appeals Chamber, in the case of Furundzija, raises some interesting questions. Of the grounds of appeal, one related to the potential for bias by the President of the tribunal that tried him, as she had involvement in a campaign to reaffirm rape as a war crime. Does this point not have a "Hoffman" ring to it (In re Pinochet)? Whither article 6 and the Findlay principles? Even though the ICTY is not a party to the ECHR, it is unfortunate that the court, sitting in a European city of a country that is a party, does not seem to have been persuaded on these principles to the same extent as the ECtHR. Aspals
20 July:  I am definitely with Ann on the question of women in the trenches. However, I bet most of the boys would be in favor - why not, a bird in the trench, great. Seriously though, women do tend to whinge more than blokes (sorry if that is sexist and politically incorrect) and cannot put up with discomfort to the same extent. I know that is a generalisation, but it's true. Peter Sullivan
17 July:  I'm temporarily back on line after taking to the hills last week to recover from Exam Boards (a nice few days' walking in the Lakes). My feeling is that granting immunity from prosecution is a very dubious practice, quite apart from the jurisdictional questions which Barry raises. What do those who made the decision hope to achieve by this? Only if the benefits vastly outweigh the drawbacks should decisions like this ever be made.
On a different tack, and partly inspired by tramping over rough country with a rucksack on my back, what views do contributors have on the story in today's papers that the army is to carry out 'field trials' on the employment of women in the front line, inspired, apparently, by Geoffrey Hoon's view that women are currently at an 'unfair' disadvantage when seeking promotion, because of lack of combat experience.

My feeling is that unless these trials demonstrate very clearly that the employment of women in the front line makes absolutely no difference to combat efficiency the present status quo should continue. Further, the trials should take place on the basis that no concessions whatever are made to the women involved - i.e. they participate on exactly the same terms as the men in respect of load carried, distance covered, time allowed to cover distance etc.

Having spent a year as the only woman in an infantry battalion, I think I am reasonably well qualified to express a view, and my feeling is that it is realistic to have women as far forward as Battalion HQ, provided the individual women concerned are able to watchkeep etc on the same terms as the men, but no further, since (apart from the occasional very exceptional individual), they simply don't have the physical attributes required for a front line slit trench. I train in the gym with men on a regular basis, and fancy myself as pretty fit, but it is pretty clear from observation at the gym that where men and women are trained to the same degree will the men will always have an edge in upper body strength, and even on things (such as sit-ups) which women frequently are better at, they will tend to be slower.

Quite apart from the physical side, I think that there are basic temperamental differences between men and women. Here I am generalising, of course, but I think that women are in general more reluctant to go on operations than men (the attitude tends to be to regard it as a regretable necessity rather than as something to look forward to - say, in order to put the training into practice). Whether this leads to a greater proportion of women than men seeking to wriggle out of operations I'm not sure - I have certainly seen rumours in the press that there was a sudden and significant upsurge in pregnancies among Wrens serving at sea after the invasion of Kuwait! Ann Lyon

Sorry for the delay in posting - there was a re-routing problem, now resolved :-) Aspals
24 June:  The story about Milosevic being given immunity is clearly too hot for Aspals readers to comment on. I'd have thought Ann would have had something to say. Barry Furness
Ann is moving to Swansea University, so may not be on-line. Good luck with the move, Ann! The story seems to have gone dead. Aspals
20 June:  I see from today's Aspals news that there are plans afoot by the states to grant immunity to Milosevic. IANAL, but I cannot see how they can do this. They are not the world's sole authority on who does or does not get prosecuted for war crimes. Isn't that the job of the Tribunal in the Hague? Can the States unilaterally make deals to oust the jurisdiction of the international tribunal, a UN organ? Barry Furness
7 May:  please could anyone help? law student researching courts martial following human rights act 1998 any help most appreciated thank you.
27 Apr:  to student enquiring about dissertation on court martial, I am just finishing mine on Vunerable Witnesses in the Court Martial System for my LLB. The RAF legal service have a great site, plus The Court Martial Appeals (Amendment) rules 1997 are a good starting point. I also interviewed the Court Martial Adminstration Orgainsation in Upavon who were very helpful. If you would like any more details let me know, one hint however start typing now. Camilla Kerr-Ruston
24 Apr:  I am presently in the third year of a distant learning LL.B Hons degree. For my last year I will be writting my dissertation on the Courts-Martial system. Can anyone suggets some good reading for me? A student
You might wish to peruse some titles on the Aspals List pages to see the varied articles about the changes to the court-martial system and views expressed by authors thereto, including JA Pearson and several articles by JA Camp. There is also listed there (with a hot link) the book by HH Judge Rant CB QC, which you can buy on-line. In addition, there are, of course, several ECtHR decisions to be found on the Cases page that examine the matter of independence (Findlay, Coyne) and the role of the Commanding Officer (Hood, Jordan).
Good luck with your studies. Can anyone suggest other titles?Aspals
31 Mar:  John Hamlet makes some good points, (as usual).

I agree with him entirely that the goalposts, in the Services as elsewhere, have moved a good deal, and the ideal of everybody shouldering an equal share of burdens as well as benefits is by no means universally observed even in the Services where it should be given high priority.

As to whether the serviceman should be discriminated against in having fewer 'human rights' than his civilian counterparts, I think that the crux of the matter, as contributors to the Sounding Board seem to agree, is that the modern concept of 'rights' and the manner in which legislation such as the Sex Discrimination Act and the European Convention on Human Rights are applied by both British and foreign courts, frequently run counter to the needs of the Services. How is this problem to be dealt with? I suppose one possibility would be to increase the X Factor, which is supposed, after all, to reflect the differences between Service and civilian employment, and to compensate the serviceman for the extra demands made on him. This is by no means an ideal solution, certainly not at the ideological level, but it would at least be workable. Ann Lyon

19 Mar:  Ann is completely correct when discussing the reasoning behind "HMS Emperor" but I don't believe that this comparison can be done today. It would like comparing the 'Beatles' with 'Oasis.' Prior to studying law, having served some 14 years 79 days 8hrs (not counting honest!) coupled with the fact that, coming from a military background and joining as young as I did, could I only appreciate this system. But, the theory, on paper and what happens in practice are not the same. Even from an early beginning the goal posts have a tendency to move and I accept that I had to move with it, although the system probably works best for the Navy.

Still working on Ann 's theory, which again is quite correct, every one should do their bit and shoulder responsibility. However, in a system of mutual trust, team work and subordinating one's need and desires which are indeed supposed to be the backbone of the armed services and probably the most difficult things to learn. Even if I accept this to be correct then, there would be no discrimination at all in the services? Embracing this completely, even if something legitimately and inadvertently goes wrong then, the situation should be remedied, but this would only happens when and if the system works. (No disrespect intended) On the other hand, I do agree with Ann that, the Convention has moved far beyond its original aims. Would a separate (military 'experienced') employment tribunal firstly recognising, the needs and 'uniqueness' of the service and then the 'individual' within, applying a commonsense, rather than a sledge-hammer to crack a nut approach maintain some form of balance?

But even maintaining some form of balance does not justify (the rights of!) law abiding, soldiers, sailors or airman being lower than that of the (reasonable!!) terrorist or indeed his/her civilian counterpart and in this modern age why should that be so? Sorry about the lengthy speech I have kept this short and paragraphed regards John   John Hamlet

Postings in response will be delayed until 30 Mar - back then :-) Aspals
18 Mar:  Readers of the thread on the impact of the ECHR on the soldier etc, may be interested in the following account which appeared in the Mirror, on 18 Mar. Our emphasis in red.
Morale among the famed Paras is now rock-bottom, two serving officers claimed last night. They said seasoned soldiers are so disillusioned they're quitting in droves. And they blamed defence cuts, political correctness and poor leadership for the crisis. The NCOs, both veterans of Kosovo and Ulster, broke their pledge of silence to voice their fury. They said the seven alleged "druggies" had enraged comrades. And top brass had infuriated the men by recruiting sub-standard youngsters.
One of the officers said: "We are recruiting the PlayStation generation - kids who like the sound of being soldiers, but don't know what they're letting themselves in for. They are already familiar with drugs before they join and it is a part of their way of life. But it will never be accepted in the Paras. You'd be treated better if you were a paedophile or rapist". Of the shamed seven, he added: "They are being treated like lepers. They are total outcasts".
The other officer said: "If things carry on as they are, being a Para will mean nothing. Changes from the top have allowed this to happen. It's a national disgrace and we want people to know about it. The whole thing has become a joke. Morale was bad before this, but now it is on the floor . This is another example of the system going down the pan".   Aspals

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