Court Martial: Public Interest

House of Lords written question – answered on 27th March 2007.

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Photo of Lord Astor of Hever Lord Astor of Hever Deputy Chief Whip, Whips, Shadow Minister, Defence, Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs, Shadow Minister, International Development

asked Her Majesty's Government:

In connection with the recent acquittal of six defendants at the court martial arising from the death in Basra in 2003 of Mr Baha Mousa and related matters (a) what assessments were made and by whom of the likelihood of conviction on each charge; and what record was made of such assessments; (b) what assessments were made and by whom of the public interest in laying each charge; and what record was made of such assessments; (c) what communications passed between (i) the chain of command and the Army Prosecuting Authority; and (ii) the Attorney-General's Office and the Army Prosecuting Authority; in relation to these matters; and what record was made of such communications.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith Lord Goldsmith Attorney General, Law Officers' Department, Attorney General (Law Officers)

This case was reviewed by senior prosecutors of the independent Army Prosecuting Authority (APA), who consulted me as is usual in the most serious and sensitive cases. The decision to charge the defendants was made by the APA prosecutors, following advice from one of the most senior and experienced criminal counsel in the country.

In reaching their decision, the APA military prosecutors, who have operational service experience, applied the evidential and public interest tests set out in the Code for Service Prosecutors. The APA prosecutors were satisfied that there was sufficient evidence and that it was in the public interest to prosecute each defendant on each charge. The APA files contain written records of their and counsel's assessments of this case.

The communications the APA had with the chain of command and with the Attorney-General's office took the form of correspondence, telephone calls and meetings. Copies of the correspondence have been retained together with case file records of matters affecting the case. Notes were also made of my meetings with the APA.

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