Message from the Director
The SPA has now existed as a tri-service entity for over four years. The Armed Forces Act 2006 represented a major change in the legal framework for Service justice and discipline. This has been improved further by the 2011 Act. This new organisation remains
a key component of that change. Change too there certainly has been – at every level of prosecutions. Our training is now much more focused and we have moved much closer to the standards of excellence that civilian prosecutions agencies are required to aim
for. The truth is that our record for rigour, for fairness, for treatment of victims and witnesses, in the prosecution of serious sexual offences and other crimes has been praised by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of the CPS in December 2010 in a report that returned
for this organisation one of the highest combined success scores of any of the CPS areas that the Inspectorate reports upon. We intend to do much more however to see that this standard does not drop, and that we can improve on it in the future.
When the SPA was set up there was a certain institutional nervousness about change, and there would have been those only too ready to criticise if things had gone wrong. The changes we made together and the principles we stuck to have proved their own worth. That is not to say there is not more to do now. Through the training we deliver, and the belief we have in high standards, we intend to build a successful future with a strong emphasis on excellence and professionalism. There were recommendations made by the Inspectorate on how we can improve. These have all been addressed. We have however gone further and continue to look at new ways in which we can improve the Service Justice System, by espousing new procedures to bear down on cost and delay without actually threatening the standards we set for ourselves. The work this authority has done to promote the successful Early Guilty Scheme used in the civilian sector to a model suitable for us in the service justice system has born fruit. The new process is currently being trialled and assessed at the Court Martial Centre at Sennelager in Germany. This has many advantages for victims, witnesses and investigators, as well as those accused of crime. It has the potential to save resources and allow prosecutors and investigators to focus their time on cases that really need their attention. We are also engaged in looking at how we can bring the Service Justice System to a point when, like the civilian criminal justice system, electronic transfer of case files and the use of technology in court to reduce unnecessary paperwork becomes the norm.
Another new departure for this Authority is a decision to go beyond the recommendation of Her Majesty’s Inspector and implement the full aims of Baroness Stern’s Review into the investigation and prosecution of rape offences, insofar as it affects prosecutions. This in my view is essential and cannot be a mere aspiration. The Services have been invited to assist me in this by providing a few skilled prosecutors for longer periods than they are currently permitted to serve in this Authority. The change in attitudes and thinking about society’s responsibilities towards victims of these crimes, and how investigations should be approached have dominated reforms in the service and civilian sector. Specialisation and trial management responsibilities have increased exponentially. The SPA intends to be leaders in this by example. We do not underestimate the challenge.
Since the implementation of the landmark Armed Forces Act 2006, and now the 2011 Act, there is a solid framework to build confidence in the system for the future. There is a new unitary Court Martial presided over by civilian judges answerable to the same appellate judges that make up the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal. Legal Aid is available to all on the same basis as in the civilian system. The procedures and rules of evidence are largely the same, and the public scrutiny equally vigorous. These are positives on which to raise the public profile of the work we do here for the Services, but also the public at large in prosecuting all those who fall under Service law, either in the United Kingdom or in other countries of the world where our Service men and women are called upon to serve.