Legal Aid

All members of the Armed Forces have access to the Armed Forces Legal Aid Scheme to assist in the funding of advice and representation in military police interviews and military court proceedings such as Courts Martial (CM) and Summary Appeal Courts (SAC). The rules and procedures for the scheme are set out in detail in JSP 838 and are administered by a team of very helpful people at the Armed Forces Criminal Legal Aid Authority (AFCLAA) at Upavon. They are very knowledgeable and are always willing to assist with queries where they can. Call them on 01980 618008 or military 94344 followed by the extension.

Until a few years ago, service personnel received legal aid free of any contributions. However, the rules that applied in the civilian courts for some time have now been imposed in the military world as well. Therefore there are contribution levels and if your income or capital are outside these levels then you will be asked to pay a contribution to the costs. There are three criteria which determine whether you have to contribute 1) If your disposable income (together with spouse or partner) is more than £22,235. 2) If you have savings or assets of more than £3,000. 3) If the equity in your house is more than £100,000

If any of these apply, you will be assessed for a contribution. The size of the contribution depends on your financial circumstances including your outgoings and dependents. Because of that it may turn out to be very low. It is possible that you will receive a letter offering you legal aid with a frighteningly high maximum contribution. That is just the way the calculations work out and you should not panic. The cost to you will be the contribution or the lawyers bill whichever is lowest. In the case of a simple court martial the bill should not be more than £2,000 - £3,000. You should also note that if you are found not guilty then you will normally receive all your contributions back and will pay nothing. In the event that you feel that you cannot afford the contribution please contact Christopher Hill on 07725982819 or chris@militarylawexperts.co.uk to discuss the possibility of a fixed fee agreement. We are also willing to give you initial advice free of charge at any time.

Summary Appeal Courts

Anyone who is disciplined by their CO in whichever service, has the right, within 14 days to appeal to the Summary Appeal Court (SAC) to have the case heard again by an independent court at a Court Martial Centre. The hearing is in front of a judge and two military personnel and mirrors the procedure in the Crown Court on appeal from the Magistrates Court. If you lodge an appeal, you are then entitled to apply for legal aid and to be represented by a lawyer.

Chris Hill has dealt successfully with many appeals in the past and would be happy to assist you. It is possible to appeal against the actual finding of guilt, in which case the witnesses have to come and give evidence so that their stories can be tested. Alternatively it is possible simply to appeal the sentence on the basis that it is too severe. Bear in mind that the sentence in such a case can only go down or remain the same. In other words, you cannot get a greater punishment because you have appealed.

If you are being dealt with by your CO on Summary Dealing or Captain's Table and you want some free advice on whether you have grounds to appeal, contact Chris Hill on 07725982819 or Chris@militarylawexperts.co.uk

In the event that you are facing a court martial, the first priority is to apply for legal aid from the Armed Forces Criminal Legal Aid Authority (AFCLAA). (See Legal Aid)

Summary Hearings

In all three services the commanding officer has the power to deal with service personnel for minor offenses. He can impose certain punishments depending on the serviceman's rank and can also apply for "extended powers" to give a heavier punishment if he thinks it is appropriate.

Anyone appearing at a CO's hearing (Captain's Table in the Navy) will be asked before the proceedings begin whether he wishes to elect court martial. In order to make this decision the accused will need to have considered the evidence which will have been served upon him at least 24 hours before hand. This is an important decision and one upon which we can give you free advice. If you are disputing the case you are entitled to have the witnesses present to give evidence so that you can ask them questions. You are also entitled to call witnesses on your own behalf including character witnesses.

Once the CO has determined whether or not the case is proved he will announce his decision. If the case is proved he will then proceed to sentence. Any serviceman who is punished by his CO then has 14 days in which to appeal either the conviction or the sentence to a Summary Appeal Court. We can advise you on all these matters free of charge.