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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 British Army and Royal Air Force. The equivalent post in the Royal Navy was the Judge Advocate of the Fleet though this role is now incorporated within the Judge Advocate General's office.


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 practiced 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]

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


He is the legal adviser of the Sovereign and of the commander-in-chief in military cases, and by his authority all general courts-martial are held. In his office are deposited the originals of all such proceedings, and on his receipt of them they are examined, and either deposited as correct, or communicated upon, or submitted by the Judge Advocate General to Her Majesty for royal approval, or for pardon, or revision, as, in the opinion of this officer, the case may require.

He is assisted by civilians who are his permanent staff. There is a total of ten, comprising one Vice Judge Advocate General (must be a barrister or advocate of seven years standing, or a deputy judge advocate), 6 Assistant Judge Advocates General (must be a barrister or advocate of seven years standing, or a deputy judge advocate), 2 Deputy Judge Advocates (must be a barrister or advocate of five years standing).

These provide advice to accused and prosecution, and sum up the evidence for the Court. Defendants are entitled to a defending officer, and to civilian counsel if they so wish. The British Army and the RAF have similar arrangements, and the same Judge Advocate General. In the 1990s significant changes to the courts martial system were instigated following European Court of Human Rights judgements.

The Director of Army Legal Services, a major-general, advises the army on all legal matters. His staff are officers of the Army Legal Services Branch of the Adjutant-General's Corps. They number 110, including 20 short service captains. There are ten in the Territorial Army.

The head of the RAF Legal Branch, is an Air Vice Marshal, who advises the RAF on all legal matters. His staff are officers of the Legal Branch. They number around 40 including 10 Flight Lieutenants.

The office was for many years a political one, the holder resigning on a change of ministry. The Judge Advocate General was made subordinate to the Lord Chancellor, and since 1951 has been appointed on his recommendation.

List of Judge Advocates GeneralEdit

Down to 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)


  1. Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act 1951, s.31
  2. "Increasing Diversity in the Judiciary". 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 Justice". Judiciary of England and Wales. 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-16. 
  6. Courts-Martial (Appeals) Act 1951, s.31(d)-(e)

External linksEdit

See alsoEdit

United States


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