An abbreviated dismissal process is one where a member of the armed forces is served with an Annex P notice informing them of an intention to discharge them and giving them 14 days to respond.
The notice is often issued in cases where allegations have arisen that the Services Code of Conduct has been broken in some significant way. This can arise where an officer is charged with a criminal offence and court martial proceedings have been instigated but not yet concluded.
The concerning aspect of this process is that it can result in the ending of an officer’s career simply based on allegations alone. The short notice period means there is very limited time for the officer to respond. Early advice and assistance in drafting a response can make an important difference.
The arguments that can be made to challenge an Annex P notice can address:
- The procedure – were the stages prior to the notice being issued correctly followed?
- Arguments on the evidence – where it is being argued that the officer has exhibited unacceptable behaviour before a finding is made in court, it can be helpful to outline the weaknesses of the evidence in the case.
- Proportionality – the abbreviated procedure should only be applied in the most “exceptional” circumstances. There is argument to be made where it is being applied for prematurely or on the basis of thin or faulty reasoning.
- Mitigating features – personal characteristics of the officer such as their age or junior rank at the time of the allegations or the impact of dismissal on their future in the forces, or the loss of income for someone supporting a family can be raised as arguments against summary discharge.
These arguments can be made alongside challenges to unfair assertions made in the Annex P notice e.g. the evidential weight of a charging decision and whether the impact of these allegations on the reputation of the armed forces is a valid consideration.
Advancing a set of alternative proposals to allay any concerns outlined in the notice can also assist e.g. suspension until the outcome of the court martial proceeding, restricted or alternative duties etc.
Personal representations and character references can also support a response to help the Deciding Officer establish whether to grant the immediate discharge or give the officer in question the benefit of the doubt. Counsel’s advice on the type of character witnesses obtained and the kind of content that is most effective can make a huge difference to the defence case. Ultimately this is the part of the response where the Officer explains what their career means to them, what it’s taken to get there, and why others support them in this journey.
It is worth taking time and care to respond to these notices because their outcome is not a foregone conclusion. Careers can take years to establish and be snatched away in an instant. A fully considered response can buy you time until the outcome of your court martial proceedings, preserve your support network throughout that process, and ensure you have a career to return to if you are acquitted.
Karlia Lykourgou is a general crime practitioner with experience representing defendants in court martial proceedings and related matters.