Soldiers’ rights

UK servicemen and women are being badly let down by the Armed Forces’ in-house policing and legal systems, especially where rape and other serious offences are concerned. Soldiers should receive the same protection and access to justice as everyone else.


Crimes including sexual assault and rape within the Armed Forces are being investigated by the service police because Commanding Officers currently don’t have to refer allegations to the civilian police. The Royal Military Police lacks the training and independence necessary to deal with such serious and sensitive cases.

Soldiers are also being failed by the inadequate service complaints system – the process by which serving and former members of the forces can make a formal a complaint about their treatment. The system has proved complex, lengthy and traumatising for those who attempt to use it.

And the system for dealing with the service police is particularly poor because there is no meaningful independent oversight. The Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) – an independent body which regulates the conduct of civilian police officers and handles complaints – has no jurisdiction whatsoever over the service police.


Our soldiers receive second-rate justice.

The Service Police are taking charge of investigations into alleged sexual offences including rapes, which they are not qualified to take on. In 2017 alone, 123 investigations were carried out by the Royal Military Police.

Conviction rates for rape in the military are even lower than civilian rates – which are already far too low. In 2017, of the 48 cases that actually made it to Court Martial, only two resulted in a conviction.

And under the current complaints system, family members of soldiers who have died are prevented from making complaints on their behalf.


We represent the families of several soldiers who were failed by the Armed Forces – and we use human rights laws to find answers, achieve justice and make life better for future troops.

Over the years, we’ve made significant progress:

  • Service Complaints Ombudsman – a new empowered and independent Ombudsman is in place.
  • Sexual Offences statistics – stats on sexual offences in the military justice system are now published.
  • Answers for families of deceased soldiers – we secured fresh inquests into the deaths of Privates Cheryl James and Sean Benton, two of four young recruits who died at Deepcut barracks.
  • Calls for the Army to do more for troops in mental distress – the coroner for the inquests into the deaths of Lance Corporal James Ross and Rifleman Darren Mitchell, who were both found dead on Ballykinler Barracks within three months of each other amid a spate of self-harming episodes on the same unit, has called on the Army to do more to support soldiers in mental distress.
  • Formal apology – the Royal Military Police has formally apologised to Corporal Anne-Marie Ellement’s family for failing to properly investigate her original allegation of rape.


The Centre for Military Justice provides free, independent, expert legal services to serving or former members of the Armed Forces or their bereaved families.

Contact The Centre for Military Justice

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