The Ministry of Defence published a review of the Service Police as part of a wider review of the Service Justice System. This Commons Library briefing paper discusses who the Service Police are, what they do, and the outcome of the review.

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Who are the Service Police?

The Service Justice System provides a legal framework that ensures Service personnel are subject to a single disciplinary code that applies wherever they are serving.

The disciplinary systems of the three services – the Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force – were drawn together under a common system by the Armed Forces Act 2006. While the Service Justice System mirrors the criminal law in England and Wales as closely as possible it also provides an avenue to enforce standards that are distinctive to the Armed Forces.

Each of the three services has its own police force: The Royal Military Police (RMP) in the Army, the Royal Air Force Police (RAFP) and the Royal Navy Police (RNP). Collectively they are known as the Service Police. They are empowered by the Armed Forces Act 2006 to investigate service offences.

Service offences include all criminal offences under the laws of England and Wales, as well as some additional disciplinary offences unique to the military, for example absence and misconduct.

The Service Police Review

The Ministry of Defence published a review of the Service Police and the Service Justice System in early 2020.

The review will inform the next Armed Forces Bill, which must be passed by Parliament in 2021.

The Service Policing: Service Justice review Policing review was led by the former Chief Constable for Merseyside, Sir Jon Murphy. He made 24 recommendations in total. The olicing review also included an audit of the process of domestic abuse and serious sexual offences investigated by the Service Police.

The review supported retaining three separate Service Police organisations but recommended the creation of a Tri-Service defence serious crime unit.

The review also recommended Service Police should no longer be responsible for investigating the most serious offences (murder, rape and manslaughter) in the UK. This recommendation is in alignment with the recommendation by HH Shaun Lyons, in his review of the Service Justice System, for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPA) become responsible for the prosecution of the most serious crimes committed in the UK, rather than the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA). The MOD originally rejected this, but in June announced that the Defence Secretary had decided to give “fresh consideration” to this recommendation.

The review also recommended that all incidents of domestic abuse that are brought to the attention of the Chain of Command should be reported to the service police.

The Service Justice System Review

The Library will publish a paper on the Service Justice System Review at a later date. The Review was commissioned in preparation of the next Armed Forces Bill, which must be passed by Parliament in 2021. 

 

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