The Military Court Service provides a criminal court service for the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force in the Court Martial, Summary Appeal Court and Service Civilian Court.
The MCS works closely with, but is independent of, the Office of the Judge Advocate General, the Service Prosecuting Authority which is equivalent to the Crown Prosecution Service, the Service chains of command, Service and MOD personnel branches, the National Probation Service, the Victim and Witness Services and military court advocates.
Further information on the Court Martial, Summary Appeal Court and the Service Civilian Court can be found in the Manual of Service Law JSP 830.
Message from the Judge Advocate General and Director of Military Court Service dated 22 March 2022
There are two permanent Military Court Centres in the UK at Bulford and Catterick.
The court system is entirely portable, with the ability for MCS to convene trials outside of the MCCs anywhere in the UK or elsewhere. The most recent examples have included Nightingale Courts at Tidworth and overseas in Brunei, Belize, Cyprus, Kenya and the USA.
All such trials are supported by fully trained civil servants employed by the Ministry of Defence working from both court centres. Due to the draw down of British Forces Germany, the permanent court centre at Sennelager is soon to be converted for other use but will be retained as a Court Martial location should one be required. The MCS is independent of the Service chains of command and is staffed by civil servants.
To ensure independence, the Director MCS is appointed by the Defence Council as Court Administration Officer (CAO). The CAO has a legislated function to give notice of court proceedings and to specify lay members of the court (equivalent to jury selection). These duties are conducted in accordance with the Armed Forces Act 2006 and related Statutory Instruments. The CAO is a permanent member of both the Service Justice Board and the Service Justice Executive Group.
The Director MCS operates from the Bulford Court Centre supported by a Senior Management Team and a Court Administration Unit. Each Court Centre has a dedicated Court Officer who is directly responsible for the day-to-day management of court proceedings, liaison with the Judiciary and court listings. Service Court proceedings are open to the public unless otherwise directed by the presiding judge.
The Deputy Director MCS oversees the delivery of the MCS assize programme. Cases are listed within ‘assize sessions’, held at the Military Court Centres run by MCS staff. However, a particularly lengthy or complex Court Martial or Service Civilian Court case may be listed as a ‘stand-alone’ outside the assize sessions. Where possible the volume of cases is equally split between both Court Centres.
By default, cases for the RN are held at Bulford, cases for the RAF are held at Catterick and Army cases are divided between both locations. Cases of civilians subject to Service discipline are assigned on a case by case basis.
At the listing phase of case management, the Court officer will work with the resident Judge Advocate to appoint a Judge Advocate to each case.
The MCS aim to list a case for an initial hearing within 28 days after receipt of directional papers from the Service Prosecuting Authority.
Protocols in the service justice system (SJS)
Military Court Service Strategic Plan
The MCS’s primary role is to deliver a criminal court service for the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force and in so doing, works to protect and advance the principles of justice with people’s needs and expectations at its heart.
The Service Justice System is an essential public service, relied upon by hundreds of victims and families (subject to either Service law or Service discipline), across our country and elsewhere to deliver justice outcomes that matter to them.
The decision to have a tri-Service court service with the associated ongoing support mechanisms further underlines the need to ensure the MCS has an established, integrated, and coherent strategy that will both deliver the required outputs and collaborative working arrangements.
These steps will allow the organisation to modernise, where necessary mobilise, and transform itself to be fit for purpose for the future challenges in the administration of Service Justice.
The MCS must ensure collaborative alignment with all other areas of the Service Justice System. The delivery and management of the MCS strategy seeks to create a culture of continuous service improvement and modernise court processes. The plan calls for the MCS to embrace new ways of working with technology-based systems that focus on enhancing efficiency, reducing duplicity and bureaucracy, and having platforms that directly link with partners and stakeholders to deliver a fully integrated digital case management system.
This MCS Strategic Plan is designed to highlight the relevant objectives, goals, challenges, and associated programmes across the MCS that will contribute to the continuous improvement of the organisation, its structure, processes, and culture. The integrated elements of the MCS strategy will seek to deliver core business improvement aims, develop people, invest in infrastructure, and create a vision for how the MCS will operate in the years to come.
To provide high quality services to manage the journey of the victim, witness, and defendant through the court process of the Service Justice System.
MCS will deliver this by providing a truly Independent and Impartial service.
The MCS’s key objectives are:
- Promotion of modern, fair, effective, and efficient administration of the service justice system.
- Achievement of best value for money.
- Continuous improvement of performance and efficiency across all aspects of the military courts’ work.
- Collaboration with the full range of Service Justice System stakeholders to improve the service provided to all those required to participate in court proceedings.
- Creation of greater confidence in, and respect for, the service justice system.
- Achievement of excellence as an employer.
The Military Court Service is to:
- Co-ordinate, administer and provide support to all court proceedings notified by the Court Administration Officer.
- Specify such members of courts as required by law.
- Maintain a detailed and secure statistical, budgetary, and documentary record of all relevant activities.
- Support as necessary the work of the Service Justice Board and Service Justice Executive Group, which were created to write and implement policy with the aim of directing service justice in the future.
- Seek to encourage awareness of, and confidence in, the Service Justice System within the services, Ministry of Defence and wider public.
- Contribute as appropriate to the internal and external training of Service and civilian personnel involved with the Service Justice System.
The MCS strategy can be expressed by mapping three areas of focus: people, systems and processes, and buildings against those things that we know people want and need when they come into contact with the service courts.
1. The right number of trained people in whom we invest properly, and whose outstanding commitment we value and build on.
- Strive to retain and deploy our expertise so that we can run a high quality service for our users and drive transformational change.
2. Modern systems and processes, underpinned with the latest technology
- Manage performance across both court centres and respond quickly to address any performance dips.
- Roll out and deliver improved technology based systems and new ways of working in both court centres.
- Increase the capacity and capability of the courts whilst delivering an improved service for users.
3. Maintain and develop our buildings and settings to suit our new ways of working and security requirements
- Make visible and tangible improvements to court buildings by improving the way we deliver day to day maintenance, deliver enhanced security, and support our IT applications through our facilities contracts.
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Court Administration Unit
Military Court Service
Telephone: 01980 672071
Bulford Military Court Centre
Telephone: 01980 673271
Catterick Military Court Centre
Telephone: 01748 872055
Court Martial Report Service
Military Court Centre
SP4 9NA Telephone: 01980 672822