Corporate report: Service Justice System review

Ministry Of Defence

February 27
12:01 2020

Service Justice review: part 1

Service Justice review: part 2


The Service Justice System (SJS) review was carried out by HH Shaun Lyons, a retired senior Crown Court judge, who was supported by the former Chief Constable for Merseyside, Sir Jon Murphy.

The review submitted 3 reports, part 1 on the need for the SJS and an overview of the system in March 2018 and a separate report on Service Policing, followed by part 2 on how the system can be improved in March 2019.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) welcomes the reports from HH Lyons following his review of the SJS and is very grateful to him for his thorough and detailed examination of the SJS. The MOD is also grateful to Sir Jon Murphy for his contribution on the aspects of the reports dealing with the Service Police and Mark Guinness for his work on Domestic Abuse, Child Abuse and Victims and Witnesses.

Part 1 of the review looked at the SJS as a whole to consider if it continues to be necessary, fair and efficient. The part 1 policing report examined if the current structure and skill set of the Service Police organisations and the Ministry of Defence Police matched the future requirements of the SJS. Following consideration of both part 1 reports, further work was carried out in part 2 to identify ways to improve the SJS.

The MOD has spent the time since submission of the reports considering carefully the recommendations made. The MOD is in broad agreement with the majority of recommendations in the reports that seek to improve the SJS, making it more effective, efficient and to provide a better service for those who use it, in particular for victims and witnesses.

The Need for the Service Justice System

The MOD welcomes HH Lyons unequivocal endorsement of the continuing need for the SJS as the critical facilitator for discipline on operations which is key to operational effectiveness. The SJS supports and regulates disciplinary behaviour through the service offences set out in the Armed Forces Act 2006 and ensures wider criminal wrongdoing is dealt with.

The Review also found that the SJS was fair and the MOD agrees that the measures identified by the Review should be considered further to make the system more aligned with current practice in the civilian justice system. The MOD recognises that we need more aligned governance in order to more rigorously demonstrate to others the fairness of this system, in order to maintain the Armed Forces and public confidence in it.

While the Review noted that direct comparisons with performance of the civilian criminal justice system were not always possible or helpful, there is nevertheless always scope to improve the efficient administration of justice, whether for those specifically subject to the SJS by virtue of their service to the nation, or for the public at large. The MOD agrees that more can be done to improve the efficiency of the SJS and will be actively taking forward the recommendations from the Review to improve performance throughout the SJS.

The role of the Service Police

In relation to the Service Police (SP), Sir Jon Murphy noted that they conduct many other tasks in addition to policing and only operated exclusively as investigatory police when with their respective Special Investigation Branch. The MOD recognises the unique and specialised roles that the Service Police have and is taking steps to further explore the recommendation of a Defence Serious Crime Unit (DSCU) and other recommendations made by Sir Jon as ways to address these issues.

During the early stages of the Review, Sir Jon Murphy identified potential areas of vulnerability in how the SP investigate allegations of domestic abuse, rape and serious sexual offences. This was not a criticism that these allegations were being investigated poorly but a question of consistency of approach and of the processes used by the SP. As a result, a separate audit of the processes undertaken in these areas by the SP was carried out by Mark Guinness, a retired Detective Superintendent with accredited experience in these specialist fields.

Overall, the audit found the SP to be very professional and to display immense flexibility on a day to day basis and deal with investigations that were at times complex and logistically challenging. It noted a focus on delivering a quality service to victims of crime and that the SP conduct their investigations expeditiously. The audit identified areas of business and processes where changes could be made to improve the quality of service provided to vulnerable victims and these are being considered further by the MOD and the SP forces.

Commentary on specific recommendations

Victims and witnesses remain a priority for the SJS and the commitments to victims are set out in the Armed Forces Code of Practice for Victims of Crime which closely mirrors the civilian equivalent. The Armed Forces Code puts victims of crime first and sets out the minimum levels of service which victims can expect in the SJS. The MOD agrees with the recommendation to make the code subject to periodic review and modification where necessary and changes are currently

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