UK Armed Forces Personnel and the Legal Framework For Future Operations

Further written evidence from General (Rtd) Sir Nick Parker

1. I have been asked to provide some additional written evidence to the Defence Committee to expand on some aspects of my original submission and the discussion which took place at the workshop at RUSI.

2. In my later appointments in the Armed Forces I detected a growing sense that the ‘system’ was not able to provide as much support to its people who were under investigation for fear of prejudicing a fair hearing. This may be more perception than fact, but I felt that there was a tendency for the chain of command to distance itself from any official enquiry since it was increasingly conditioned to believe that it represented the institution rather than the individual. Critically this can leave the individual and his/her family feeling isolated and abandoned by the institutional family we have schooled them to rely on.

3. I have also observed that the growth of non-criminal hearings, such as boards of inquiry, coroner’s hearings and civil cases by overseas plaintiffs, have caused actual and perceived reputational damage to those who have to appear, both plaintiffs and witnesses. I consider that a lack of support to these individuals, even though it may once again be perceived rather than in fact, can have an impact on relationships that sit at the heart of the military hierarchy.

4 . I understand the requirement to ensure rigorous and fair scrutiny, but I am not convinced that the MoD has achieved an entirely impartial balance between defence and prosecution, with the weight erring on the side of the prosecution. This has the potential to impact in two ways: for the individual it means that the essential trust in the chain of command may be threatened, and for the chain of command it means that commanders may be predisposed to take decisions that are designed to reduce risk rather than exploit opportunity. All this is happening at a time when we expect our subordinates to accept high levels of delegation and make rapid decisions when lives may be at stake.

March 2014

Prepared 21st March 2014