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Court Martials

Court Martial Solicitors

Court Martial specialists representing service personnel nationwide and abroad.

The lawyers at Berris Law have over 30 years of experience in representing members of the Army and other military personnel, throughout the country and abroad.

We are specialists in RMP and SIB interviews.

For interviews with service police you are entitled to FREE legal advice and representation at any RMP or SIB interview. You are free to choose your own lawyer rather than accept any recommended to you by the police or through the duty solicitor scheme.

Given what is at stake we would always advise that you should instruct a solicitor to represent you. Why not? Its FREE.

What is a Court Martial?

Before 2009, a court martial was an ad-hoc system of military courts. The Armed Forces Act 2006, which came into effect in autumn 2009, established the Court Martial in the UK as a permanent military court.

The Court Martial is there to hear general criminal cases in England and Wales committed by members of the military, and cases of breaches of military law. The workings of a Court Martial are similar to the way a Crown Court works, except the jury is known as the Board and the judge is called the Judge Advocate. The Board comprises anything between three and seven military officers, depending on how serious the offence is that they are hearing.

What are the powers of a Court Martial?

The Court Martial has powers which are similar to those of the Crown Court. It can hand down sentences such as fines, prison terms in civilian prisons, detention in a Military Corrective Training Centre, expulsion from the military and a range of other punishments which can be arranged by a Commanding Officer.

Can I appeal against a Court Martial sentence?

Yes, there is a Court Martial Appeal Court which has the job of hearing appeals regarding decisions and sentences made by the Court Martial. Most of the judges working in the appeals systems come from the civilian Court of Appeal. There is also the right to make a further appeal to the Supreme Court, if appropriate.

What sorts of offences can end up in a Court Martial?

The range of offences dealt with in a Court Martial is very wide.

The Court Martial deals with offences that are peculiar to the armed services , many of which can lead to a term of life imprisonment such as misconduct on operations, assisting the enemy, dangerous flying, desertion, failure to suppress a mutiny and giving false air signals. It also deals with offences which carry a shorter term, such as failing to provide a sample to be tested for drugs.

If something is a criminal offence in England and Wales, a serving member of the military can be brought before the Court Martial and tried for the offence, irrespective of where in the world the incident happened. The sort of offences covered by this can include careless driving, fraud, assault, theft and many more.

Can civilians be covered by military law?

In certain circumstances, such as if a civilian is on board a military aircraft or ship, or if they are working in a support role for an organization such as NAAFI, NATO or SSVC, they are subject to military law. This rule also covers people who are living with members of the military on base, and people working as MOD contractors.

What happens in a Court Martial?

Courts Martial aren’t massively dissimilar from civilian courts, but there are some important differences and distinctions in which the process differs from that of the civilian Crown Court.

The defendant in a Court Martial usually wears full military uniform but without a belt. Instead of sitting in a dock, as would be the case in a civilian court, the defendant instead sits next to the Defence Counsel — much like many foreign civilian courts. The Judge Advocate wears a wig, bands and a black robe with a sash containing the service colours. Judge Advocates used to be referred to as ‘Sir’, until 2012, when this was changed to ‘Your Honour’.

Whereas a civilian court will be made up of a civilian jury, usually of twelve people, a Court Martial is made up of a jury known as a Board, which consists of between three and seven members depending on the seriousness of the offence. The Board are all either current or past commissioned officers. The most senior member is known as President of the Board, who effectively acts as the foreman in a Crown Court.

When the Board votes, they do so in reverse (rising) order of superiority, ensuring that no member feels pressured to vote a certain way because of the vote of a superior officer.


If you are to face trial by Court Martial, either by election or referral, you will be entitled to legal aid paid for by AFCLAA. If you lodge an appeal to the Summary Appeal Court, your representation will again be funded by AFCLAA. In both these situations there is a small possibility that you may be asked to contribute to your defence costs. This, however, is quite rare.

Should Legal aid not be available to you and whilst every case is different we give you the option of a fixed fee for most cases – so you know exactly how much you have to pay. We accept debit and credit cards.

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The office is open from 9 am to 5.30 pm Mondays to Fridays excluding bank holidays. In the event your call is urgent and require us out of hours please either telephone us on 020 3325 7415 or email us on info@berrislaw.co.uk or complete the online form. All are monitored 24/7.


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