Select Committee on Armed Forces Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence



  1.  A Commanding Officer may award the following punishments subject to the approval of a Commander in Chief or a Flag Officer:

    —  Dismissal from Her Majesty's Service.

    —  Detention for a term not exceeding three months.

    —  Disrating.

    —  A fine in excess of 14 days' pay (maximum 28 days).

    —  Severe reprimand.

    —  Stoppages, for loss or damage, over 14 days' pay (maximum 28 days).

    —  Reduction to the 2nd class for conduct.

    —  Deprivation of Good Conduct badges and Good Conduct Medal.

  2.  A Commanding Officer may also award the following punishments:

  A fine not exceeding 14 days' pay

    —  Reprimand.

    —  Stoppages, for loss or damage, not exceeding 14 days' pay.

    —  Extra work and drill (not exceeding 14 days).

    —  Stoppage of leave (not exceeding 30 days).

    —  Forfeiture of pay for improper absence.

    —  Extra work or drill not exceeding two hours a day (not exceeding seven days).

    —  Admonition.

  3.  The regulations governing summary trial set out in detail the procedure to be followed. They provide that the accused should have adequate time to prepare his answer(s) to the charge(s) and be properly advised and assisted in presenting his case by a competent officer or senior rating, who may cross-examine witnesses on behalf of the accused. Commanding officers' powers of punishment are not unfettered. Consistent, fair and lawful punishment is ensured by a number of safeguards. Except for a relatively minor punishment, the approval of a Flag Officer, who will invariably be advised by a legally qualified officer, must be sought before a punishment is awarded. The reports from each ship of all summary punishments awarded are also reviewed regularly by Commands to ensure legality, fairness and consistency. Personnel found guilty under the summary system now also have the right of appeal against sentence or finding and sentence to the Summary Appeal Court (SAC), where they can be legally represented.

  4.  Naval Disciplinary Regulations impose restrictions on the summary trial of Warrant Officers. There are restrictions on the punishments that may be awarded to Warrant Officers, amongst which are requirements that any punishment awarded summarily to a Warrant Officer cannot take effect without the prior approval of a Flag Officer, and in most cases, before a Warrant Officer is awarded a summary punishment, he must be given the option of trial by court-martial.

  5.  Provision is proposed in this Armed Forces Bill for the introduction of summary trial for officers. Briefly, officers of the rank of Commander and below would be given the option for summary trial, by their Commanding Officer, for minor offences. That Commanding Officer would have to be at least two ranks higher than the accused, and must not be of lower rank than Commander. Should this not be possible, the Commanding Officer's higher authority would appoint an officer of the necessary rank to deal with the case. The range of charges to be tried summarily would be limited (in much the same way as for Warrant Officers at present), as the range of punishments which may be awarded following summary trial of an officer is not to exceed a fine and severe reprimand. Officers will retain the right to elect for trial by court-martial in all cases. The introduction of these provisions is intended to continue the drive towards greater equality of treatment between officers and ratings, where that is judged sensible, and to capitalise on the advantages of summary trial, in a wider range of cases.

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Prepared 19 March 2001