The Law of Unauthorised Disclosures
Chapter 7: Whistleblowing in the Armed Forces
Service personnel in the Armed Forces face considerable challenges if they witness wrongdoing or malpractice. They must observe a rigid command structure and risk breaching those rules if they disregard or disobey orders. Based upon rank, the structure requires subordinates to obey the orders of a superior officer. The structure also allows for ‘administrative action’ or punishments to be considered by superior officers for matters relating to discipline. Therefore, whereas a civil servant would be subject to obligations prescribed by the criminal law and by the Civil Service Code, the military justice system is structured to deal with both matters of criminal law and discipline, by way of court martial or by administrative action. Whilst it is clear that discipline is a necessary feature of life in the Armed Forces, the command structure has served as a barrier to the resolution of service complaints. The command structure has also acted as a barrier against much needed reform of complaint handling and oversight of the services. Military personnel face a number of restrictions on their expression rights and are excluded from the whistleblowing protections provided by the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) 1998. However, not all work undertaken by military personnel takes place during combat and not all military personnel are working on the front line. There is a distinction between combat operations and life ‘back at the barracks’.
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