The Armed Forces Bill - Armed Forces Committee Contents

Supplementary written evidence from the Ministry of Defence


1.  This memorandum is a supplemental memorandum provided in response to questions raised during the taking of oral evidence before the Select Committee on the Armed Forces Bill. The questions relate to the new sections of the Armed Forces Act 2006, provided for in clause 11 of the Bill (Testing for alcohol and drugs on suspicion of an offence). The Committee asked:

  1. (a)  whether the requirement in the proposed new sections 93E(5)(c) and 93G(6)(b) for a specimen of blood or urine to be of sufficient quantity to be divided into two parts for the purpose of analysis is consistent with road traffic legislation; and
  2. (b)  whether the requirement to provide a urine sample within one hour of it being required is consistent with road traffic legislation.

2.  The question about the requirement as to the quantity of blood and urine samples:

2.1  Under road traffic legislation, the procedure for taking samples is dealt with mainly in Part 1 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. That Act does not deal with the required size of a sample. That issue is dealt with in the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 ("RTOA") by reference to the question whether a sample is sufficient to be admitted in evidence. The aim is to provide a safeguard for the accused. Under the RTOA, when a person provides a specimen of blood or urine, he is entitled to ask for a part of the specimen. Evidence of the proportion of alcohol, or of any drug, found in the specimen is not admissible in court unless:

  1. (a)  the specimen in which the alcohol or drug is found is one of two parts into which the specimen provided by the person was divided when it was provided, and
  2. (b)  the other part of the specimen was available to the person if he wished to arrange his own analysis of it.

2.2  The overall effect of the road traffic provisions is that the evidence will not be admitted unless the specimen is large enough to be, and is in fact, divided, with one part provided to the accused for analysis.[66]

2.3  The approach adopted in clause 11 of the Bill is slightly different in that it includes in the provisions as to the taking of samples the requirement for them to be capable of division into two parts for analysis.[67] It also includes the requirement that the person providing the specimen must (if he or she requests it) be given a part of the specimen for analysis. It was thought helpful to include these requirements in the provisions governing the taking of the samples, because of the importance of the person taking the samples being aware of them. Provision governing the effect of the requirements on the admissibility of a sample as evidence will be included in court rules under the Armed Forces Act 2006.

2.4  The provisions in the Bill for offences with respect to alcohol and drugs are related to safety-critical duties. This broadly reflects the approach of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003 with respect to the carrying out of aviation and navigation functions. As regards the provisions for testing, the Bill's provisions are consistent with those of the 2003 Act, as that Act adopts (with necessary modifications) the provisions for testing in road traffic legislation, including the provisions of the RTOA summarised above.

3.  The question about the timing requirement for the giving of a urine sample:

3.1  As mentioned in the Ministry of Defence's first memorandum on drugs and alcohol provisions, this requirement, which is set out in the proposed new section 93E(6)(a), is exactly the same as that contained in section 7(5) of the Road Traffic Act 1988.

16 February 2011

66   Section 15(5) of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. Back

67   New sections 93E(5)(c) and 93E(6)(b) of the Armed Forces Act 2006. Back

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