Navy Reserve Legal Officer

Navy Reserve Legal Officer

Provide legal advice, services and support to the direction and management of the defence in all aspects of the law and the administration of legal matters (except those falling within the competence of the legal officers). The main task of a naval officer is to advise the command. Naval Legal Officers contribute to the Navy`s mission by providing expert advice in the key areas of the Navy`s legal practice, namely military discipline, military administrative law and the law of military operations. In addition to providing specialized legal advice, naval attorneys may also act as counsel in defence investigations or as prosecutions or defence of officers before courts martial and war and defence judges. The Defence Law Division is headquartered in Canberra. Officer representatives are stationed in most major commands, formations and organisations across Australia. Defence lawyers include permanent and reserve lawyers from the Navy, Army and Air Force (with the exception of lawyers seconded to the Inspector General of the ADF and the Office of the Judge Advocate General). Defence lawyers also include all civil lawyers and defence paralegals. The independence of legal reservists can be a huge advantage in larger investigations. The 2005 Sea King Board of Inquiry, on which I also participated, is one example. Let me give you the background to the investigation.

Inadequate maintenance of the Sea King Shark 02 helicopter caused a terrible crash and fire on Nias Island, Indonesia, during Operation Sumatra Assist II. Nine members of the navy and air force were killed. Two others were seriously injured. Reservists reconstitute permanent clubs so that permanent legal officers can be deployed or taken on leave. Reservists also provide legal advice in areas so legally specialized that the ADF cannot be expected to develop its own in-house legal expertise to an equivalent level. An example of this is the complex occupational health and safety law, in which a number of reserve law firms operate in civilian life and advise the ADF. On-reserve advocacy and ongoing advocacy have complementary capabilities. Both are essential for a legally effective ADF. Permanent lawyers tend to have less courtroom and pleading experience and less business experience than their counterparts on the reserve. Reservists, on the other hand, are disadvantaged because they are less familiar with operations and international law and connect to ADF systems, practices and operational procedures. In practice, a team with a combination of both backgrounds is preferable.

The legal reservist also fulfills another interesting semi-cultural role within the ADF. It is essential that the ADF military justice system maintain the highest legal standards and reflect the community`s expectations of our civilian justice system. As reservists, civilian lawyers bring experience that can help maintain these standards and expectations within the ADF. Members of the Reserve Force are trained at the same level as their regular troop counterparts. They typically begin their training at the JAG`s office to ensure they meet the required basic military standards. After basic officer training, the home unit conducts special skills training. Candidates with a law degree (LL.L., LL.B. or J.D.) may be placed directly into the required on-the-job training program after basic training.

Finally, in the absence of full investigations, Reservists often assist investigators in investigations conducted under the Defence (Investigations) Regulations. For such investigations, a General Service officer is usually paired as an investigator with a legal reservist as an investigative assistant. The legal reservist is there to ensure that procedural fairness is afforded to all those who may be affected by the investigation. These examinations can be extraordinarily diverse. My own trip to the Persian Gulf in 2003 involved gathering evidence of such an investigation aboard HMAS Kanimbla and then, upon my return, submitting a report based on my investigations. I also conducted research on bullying, unacceptable behaviour and attacks at the Australian Defence Force Academy in the late 1990s. This investigative work is typical of that performed by legal reservists during their careers. The ADF`s military disciplinary system is structured at its higher levels as a civilian court, with lawyers for military judges acting as judges and lawyers acting for both prosecution and defence. But the system in which the ADF now operates is only an interim court martial system.

After the High Court of Australia declared the former Australian Military Court incompatible with the division of the judiciary in the Australian Constitution (Lane v Morrison [2009] HCA 29; 239 CLR 230), the current transitional system was established until the form of a permanent system was decided. The military justice system currently consists of a permanent Judge Advocate, who is a judge of the former Australian Military Court, Major-General Ian Westwood AM, the Chief Justice Advocate, and two legal reserve judge advocates, one of whom is a retired federal judge, the Honourable Dennis Cowdroy OAM QC RANR. The other is a senior lawyer who practices in his civilian life as a specialist in criminal law, Wing Commander Greg Lynham. Reservists also conduct commando design training courses and act as aides-de-camp to state governors. They also provide legal assistance for the many problems that may arise in the management of army, navy and air force cadets. The Defence Abuse Response Taskforce (DART) was established in response by the Australian Government to the DLA Piper review of past incidents of sexual and other abuse within the ADF. The first chair of this task force was Major-General Len Roberts-Smith RFD QC, a retired JAG. The Task Force conducted specific investigations, including into the group of complainants known as ADFA24 and the abuses committed at HMAS Leeuwin. The Task Force is currently involved in the important process of restorative engagement with those who have experienced these abuses.

This process is usually carried out by permanent staff in the General Service category. But the task force is also calling for detailed investigations into evidence related to specific incidents to see whether or not the incidents should be referred to federal or state DPPs for possible prosecution. This work is done by reserve lawyers with experience in criminal law. What is the profile of the reservist? He or she is usually a lawyer, lawyer or in-house lawyer in full-time legal practice in civilian life with more than 5-7 years of practical experience before becoming a reservist.

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