|Long title||An Act to make provision with respect to the armed forces; and for connected purposes.|
|Citation||2006 c 52|
|Royal assent||8 November 2006|
|History of passage through Parliament|
|Text of statute as originally enacted|
|Revised text of statute as amended|
It came into force on 31 October 2006. It replaces the three separate Service Discipline Acts (the Army Act 1955, the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957) as the system of military law under which the British Armed Forces operate. The Armed Forces Act harmonizes service law between the three armed services. One motivating factor behind the changes in the legislation combining discipline acts across the armed forces is the trend towards tri-service operations and defence organizations.
Key areas of change include:
The Act sets out offences against service law and the associated punishments. The offences fall into two main categories:
The mass pardon of 306 British Empire soldiers executed for certain offences during the Great War was enacted in section 359 of the Act, which came into effect on royal assent. This number included three from New Zealand, twenty three from Canada, two from the West Indies, two from Ghana and one each from Sierra Leone, Egypt and Nigeria.
Tom Watson, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, was instrumental in including this in the Act. He was said to have acted having met the relatives of Private Harry Farr, who was executed during the Great War despite strong evidence that he was suffering shellshock.
However section 359(4) states that the pardon "does not affect any conviction or sentence." Since the nature of a pardon is normally to commute a sentence, Gerald Howarth MP asked during parliamentary debate: "we are entitled to ask what it does do." It would appear to be a symbolic pardon only, and some members of Parliament had called for the convictions to be quashed, although the pardon has still been welcomed by relatives of executed soldiers.
The following orders have been made under section 383(2):