The Ministry of Defence recently set out a new strategy which highlights their commitment to a zero tolerance approach to unacceptable sexual misconduct within the UK’s Armed Forces. To put this commitment into effect, the Ministry of Defence has stated that every allegation of a sexual offence will receive prompt, thorough, efficient and independent investigation.
The ‘Tackling Sexual Offending in Defence Strategy’ prioritises victims and aims to reduce the prevalence and impact of sexual offending in the Armed Forces. It appears to be in response to the Service Justice System review which was undertaken in February 2020 by His Honour Shaun Lyons who recommended a number of changes to the Service Justice System (SJS). The SJS provides the legal framework in which Armed Forces personnel are disciplined. The system mirrors the Civilian Criminal Justice System as closely as possible, but it also provides a mechanism whereby standards that are distinctive to the Armed Forces, such as absence without leave, can be enforced.
The review was commissioned following scrutiny and criticism of how the MoD handled allegations of sexual assaults and the jurisdiction of service police in investigating crimes of this nature. The strategy and new policies indicate the Ministry of Defence’s commitment to zero tolerance. In order to achieve this, a five-year vision has been set out with the aim of eliminating sexual offending within the Armed Forces. The focus will be on five key areas:
The strategy provides a clear direction as to how the Ministry of Defence plans to deal with the issue of sexual offending within the Armed Forces. To supplement the strategy, other recently published measures include:
By implementing the above, the Ministry of Defence aims to tackle sexual offending in the Armed Forces by aligning the Royal Navy, RAF and Army under one approach when dealing with incidences which in turn will enable better support for victims. The Ministry of Defence’s commitment to the above may be under scrutiny following the recently launched formal investigation into the allegations of “unacceptable behaviour” by several Red Arrow pilots whilst on a training exercise in May this year ahead of their summer programme.
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