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Richard Nelson LLP secures acquittal in Military Court Martial rape and sexual assault trial

06 Aug 2019

Richard Etherington, Solicitor at Richard Nelson LLP, and Nicola Moore, Barrister of 36 Group Chambers successfully defended a soldier accused of a number of sexual offences.

‘Soldier K’ appeared before a Court Martial accused of Attempted Rape and two counts of Sexual Assault against another soldier which were said to have taken place abroad in 2018.

‘Soldier K’ was arrested on his return to the UK. During interview with the Royal Military Police, where he was represented by the Duty Solicitor, he put forward his defence that all sexual contact was entirely consensual. He also provided the RMP with details of potential defence witnesses who could confirm previous instances of flirting and consensual sexual contact; something vehemently denied by the Complainant. The RMP did not speak to these witnesses.

Speaking about the RMP’s decision to not follow up these important lines of enquiry Richard Etherington said, “Like their civilian counterparts the Military Police are bound by the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 to pursue all reasonable lines of inquiry, whether these point towards or away from the suspect. In ‘Soldier K’s’ case important evidence was overlooked from the very start. Had the RMP taken statements from these witnesses, I am confident that this case would not have proceeded beyond the investigation stage”.

‘Soldier K’ sought specialist support

Upon being notified that he was to be charged by the Service Prosecuting Authority with serious sexual offences ‘Soldier K’ enlisted the support of Richard Nelson LLP’s team of specialist sexual offence lawyers.

In spite of his entitlement to have his representation funded by the Armed Forces Criminal Legal Aid Authority ‘Soldier K’ elected to fund his defence privately. ‘Soldier K’ said, “I wanted to make sure that my case was handled by a specialist rather than entrusting my liberty to a lawyer who deals with all kinds of offences. I needed a lawyer I could contact outside normal working hours and one which would proactively gather evidence to fight my case.”

Richard Etherington interviewed six soldiers on two separate occasions who either supported his client’s version of events or gave evidence as to unusual behaviour of the Complainant post-incident which was inconsistent with her account. He also took the unusual step of interviewing prosecution witnesses with a Military Police officer present, one of which became a key defence witness as a result of the interview.

Cross-examination key

Richard enlisted the help of Barrister Nicola Moore of 36 Group to undertake advocacy during the Court Martial. Richard selected Ms Moore not only because of her formidable reputation as a skilled trial advocate but also because of her familiarity with the Court Martial process having previously served as a Legal Officer in the Royal Air Force.

Ms Moore’s rapier-like cross examination of witnesses quickly exposed holes in prosecution evidence which were exploited by deploying evidence gathered by Richard, including an independent foreign witness. After the week-long trial ‘Soldier K’ was acquitted of all charges.

Following the acquittal

Speaking of his experience ‘Soldier K’ said, “Richard and Nicola instinctively understood the intricacies and nuances of military life which made giving instructions and receiving advice seamless. They, together with my Assisting Officer, worked tirelessly in defending me. Richard went above and beyond by tracing witnesses and gathering evidence which ultimately lead to me being found Not Guilty. When I first instructed him I was at the lowest point of my life. His confidence in my account and ‘never say die’ attitude put me at ease immediately. Had I chosen a different team of lawyers the result could have been very different. Richard Nelson LLP and Nicola Moore have given me an opportunity to complete my service and allowed me and my family to work towards a bright and secure future.”

Any case with a sexual element is inherently serious. This seriousness is amplified in a military context due to the sentencing powers which are not available to the civilian courts such as demotion in rank, service detention and dismissal from Her Majesty’s service which may lead to a serviceperson forfeiting their pension.

Contact us

If you are under investigation by the Royal Military Police, RAF Police, Royal Navy Police or the Special Investigation Branch Richard Nelson LLP can help. We proactively provide representation during interviews and investigations whether in the UK or abroad.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence we offer representation at the permanent Military Courts Centres in Aldergrove, Bulford, Catterick, Colchester, Portsmouth, Sennelager (Germany) or at specially convened Courts where the military is deployed abroad such as Afghanistan, Cyprus and Canada.

Richard Etherington

Written by Richard Etherington

Before joining Richard Nelson LLP in 2017, Richard Etherington worked for five years in a large Criminal Defence department in a variety of roles such as a Police Station Representative, Crown Court caseworker and Magistrates’ Court advocate. Richard was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in February 2017.

Read more about Richard Etherington

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