The new Armed Forces Bill going through parliament in Britain now will introduce new harsh punishments. The new article 8 reads:
- A person subject to service law commits an offence if he deserts.
- For the purposes of this Act a person deserts if he is absent without leave and—
- he intends to remain permanently absent without leave; or
- he intends to avoid any particular service or kind of service, and that service or kind of service is relevant service.
- In this section “relevant service” means—
- actions or operations against an enemy;
- operations outside the British Islands for the protection of life or property; or
- military occupation of a foreign country or territory.
- A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable to any punishment mentioned in the Table in section 163, and any sentence of imprisonment imposed in respect of the offence—
- if subsection (5) applies, may be for life;
- otherwise, must not exceed two years.
- This subsection applies if—
- the offender was on relevant service or under orders for such service when he became absent without leave; or
- subsection (2)(b) applied to him in relation to the offence.
To sum it up: refusal to be part of an occupation can be punished with life imprsionment. This is especially worrying in relation to the recent sentencing of Malcolm Kendall-Smith to eight months imprisonment. Military Families Against the War has an online petition to protest against this new punishments. More information is also available from At Ease, a voluntary organisation providing advice and support to members of the Armed Forces.
Sources: Armed Forces Bill, as brought from the Lords and ordered by the House of Commons to be printed on 30th November 2005