Schedule 1 - Excluded offences for the purposes of section 6

Part of Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 20th October 2020.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 10:30 am, 20th October 2020

Paragraph 46 of the explanatory notes states:

Schedule 1 details the sexual offences excluded from the scope of the requirements of clauses 2, 3 and 5”.

We have touched already on the fact that sexual offences are not included in the Bill. I have not yet had a good explanation of why that category is the only one identified in the Bill. I think we all agree, and there is no dispute, that sexual offences play no part whatever of the conduct of our armed forces.  If they are committed, they should be investigated and prosecuted and the perpetrator taken before court. The problem is how to separate sexual offences from other criminal activity. There are situations in which the sexual offence is committed along with other crimes, such as torture, that are not on the face of this Bill. Why exclude sexual offences?

The argument could be, as has been said, that this should never be part of the conduct of forces personnel—I agree, but that should not mean it is singled out. The problem I have with this is that when cases come forward, if there is a sexual offence as part of the accusations then this will be prosecuted, but something else of equal severity might not be prosecuted despite being part of the same event.

The obvious way around this is to leave it in and add other items as well, but I have yet to understand why sexual offences have been singled out, and I think we need an explanation because it draws attention to the fact that other things are not also mentioned. If there were clear-cut, one-off sexual offences then it is understandable, but I can imagine situations that may include other offences. If you look at some of the accusations, not necessarily against UK service personnel, but others such as those involved in peacekeeping operations, sexual offence was part of other crimes that were committed against individuals. It says in the schedule that we will exclude the sexual offence but the rest, frankly, is not part of it. I do not think it is as simple as to divide the two as clearly as this. I would like an explanation as to why and how sexual offences would be separated from other offences.