Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces

In the United Kingdom, the Judge Advocate General and Judge Martial of all the Forces is a judge responsible for the court-martial process within the Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force.


The post is regulated by the Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act 1951. The appointment is made by the British Sovereign on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor. Formerly, the Judge Advocate General had to be a barrister, advocate, or solicitor with higher rights of audience, of 10 years' standing.[1] As of 21 July 2008 the experience needed to qualify was reduced in line with a general move to broaden diversity in the judiciary.[2][3] An appointee who has practised in England and Wales now has to satisfy the judicial-appointment eligibility condition on a 7-year basis, while a practitioner from Scotland or Northern Ireland will need 7-years' standing as barrister, advocate or solicitor.[4] The post is always held by a civilian rather than a commissioned officer, however an appointee may have previously been a member of the armed forces.[5] In practice the post is held by a Senior Circuit Judge.

The Judge Advocate General can also be appointed from the Vice Judge Advocate General or Assistant Judge Advocates General.[6]

The office of Judge Advocate General was, in Victorian times, a political one, the holder resigning on a change of Government, and remains technically one of the Law Officers of the Crown. The Judge Advocate General was made subordinate to the Lord Chancellor, and since 1951 has been appointed by the Queen on her recommendation.


The Judge Advocate General was formerly the legal adviser of the Armed Forces, a role that ended in 2000. In naval and military cases, by his or her authority all proceedings in the Court Martial are held. The Judge Advocate General's office holds cases deposited the originals of all Records of Proceedings, which are kept for at least six years. The former practice of reviewing the findings and sentences of all trials of the old courts-martial was abolished in October 2009. Now the outcome of each trial in the Court Martial (now a standing court) is final, subject to appeal to the Court Martial Appeal Court. The Judge Advocate General also has power to refer a case to the Court Martial Appeal Court if it gives rise to an important point of law.

The Judge Advocate General is assisted by a team of judges who comprise the permanent judiciary, plus a small staff of civil servants. There is a total of seven judges, comprising one Vice-Judge Advocate General, and six Assistant Judge Advocates General, all of whom must be barristers or advocates of seven years standing. They preside over all proceedings in the Service courts, which comprise the Court Martial, the Summary Appeal Court, and the Service Civilian Court. The judges control the practice and procedure, give rulings on legal matters, and sum up the evidence for the jury (known as a "Board"). Defendants are entitled to a defending counsel or solicitor, and their unit may provide an Accused's Assisting Officer if they so wish. The Royal Navy, the British Army and the Royal Air Force have similar arrangements and all three Services have operated under a single system of Service law since November 2009. In the 1990s significant changes to the courts-martial system were instigated following European Court of Human Rights judgments.

List of Judge Advocates General

Through 1847, the dates are those of actual entrance upon office, not of the appointment, which is usually a few days earlier; or of the patent, commonly some days later than those adopted in this list. After 1847 the dates are those of the Gazette notices of the appointment.

Includes material from: Haydn's Book of Dignities, 12th ed. (1894; reprinted 1969)

See also


  1. Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act 1951, s.31
  2. "Increasing Diversity in the Judiciry". Department for Constitutional Affairs. October 2004. Retrieved 2008-03-05. CP 25/04
  3. "Explanatory Notes to Tribunals, Courts And Enforcement Act 2007". Office of Public Service Information. 2007. Retrieved 2008-03-05. paras.281-316
  4. Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, s.50/ Sch.10, Pt.1
  5. "Military". Judiciary of England and Wales. 2011. Retrieved 2011-04-11.
  6. Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act 1951, s.31(d)-(e)
  7. The London Gazette: no. 29828. p. 11156. 17 November 1916.

External links

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