How long is the sentence for AWOL soldiers?
November 28, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

YANAL/YANML Has anyone had any experience with people who are AWOL from the British army turning themselves in?

My boyfriend has been AWOL from the British army for four years. We currently live in Ireland, but I'm Canadian, and I want to return home to Canada to live (I've overstayed my visa, and I'm unable to work here legally). I would like him to join me, but since he doesn't have a passport and is an English citizen, the only possibility we've found is for him to return to England, turn himself in, and serve whatever sentence they give him. Since he already has a 9 month suspended sentence for going AWOL once before, I'm assuming they'll give him actual time this time. Does anyone know of any AWOL people turning themselves in? And if so, what is the average time they have been sentenced to?

We're already planning on him contacting lawyers both in Ireland and England before he goes back. I'm just hoping someone here has first or second hand experience with something like this.
posted by fruitopia to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't handle this directly, but I have a contact who I believe does work with British war resisters, so there may be overlap. I will check for you.
posted by corb at 12:09 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) has a confidential hotline for soldiers who are AWOL.

From the British Army website:

"Service personnel who are absent without leave (AWOL) can now speak in complete confidence to the SSAFA AWOL Support Line Worker.

The line is manned 9.00 - 10.00am Monday to Friday with an answering machine for call back outside these times.

Tel: 01380 738137"

I'd wager they'd be more likely to treat him favorably if he turns himself in rather than getting caught, though.
posted by inturnaround at 12:18 PM on November 28, 2012 [6 favorites]

With the American Army, turning themselves in (and having a negotiated surrender) generally brings about more favorable outcomes. Not sure if it carries across the pond.
posted by corb at 12:37 PM on November 28, 2012

I would also contact a Canadian immigration lawyer to determine what effect, if any, this or any other British conviction would have on his ability to enter Canada.
posted by Nx at 12:42 PM on November 28, 2012 [7 favorites]

According to this FoI request, it seems as though 32 months total imprisonment/detention is the worst that they had given up to 31st May 2010. I don't know how much help that is.
posted by ambrosen at 12:56 PM on November 28, 2012

For what it's worth I was the adviser to the accused in a couple of desertion/awol cases. Both lads had been absent for several months and both of them essentially pled guilty. Here are some things I recall:

This was in peacetime - different and much more severe rules apply for soldiers who abscond to avoid active duty. Did the boyfriend do this to skip a tour? If so this could be serious. (Note: going AWOL while on active service can get you in mortal danger but that doesn't seem to be the case).

I got both my guys a lawyer. Not everyone does this but simply having a civilian lawyer to explain and ask questions of the judge was invaluable. They don't need experience of courts martial they just need to want to understand the process, both of my guys were very interested getting some experience on the military side.

The army doesn't jail you unless they like you:
MCTC (Military Corrective and Training Centre) in Colchester is reserved for the people they want to hang on to. MCTC is hard time, a punishing constant regime of soldiering, lectures and PT. It is effectively a finishing school for soldiers and it turns out the some of the very best and sends them back to battalion. Lots of RSM's SMIGS etc. have some Colly time.

However I doubt you're headed for MCTC: If they don't want you then or you don't want them then they may charge you under civilian law and wash there hands of you through administrative discharge BUT, since going AWOL is not a civilian offence they can't do that. (No civi gaol would lock you up for AWOL) So their options are limited.

(You know, I confess, I'm confused about the *suspended* sentence for going AWOL, never heard of that)..

Courts Martial had a bad reputation in the past (back in my day yo). There were several high profile cases of insecure convictions etc. Things have changed, it's still rough justice but they now have properly trained permanent staff. They are much more consistent.

So in summary - in an all volunteer army the grown-ups really do not want unhappy/disruptive solders moaning about leaving encouraging others etc. etc. They just want you out before your shit spreads. They won't take you back, they can't stick you in civi gaol or MCTC so their options are few, they don't have much leverage on you.

So what happened to the guys of mine who pled guilty? Discharges for both of them, took 40 minutes. They went back to barracks to pick up their shit and say goodbye. Both were in a transit camp the next week.

Finally, I doubt that Canada considers a summary conviction for AWOL grounds to deny entry. And I seriously doubt that they have hooks into a UK courts martial DB. Be like Dad.
posted by fingerbang at 1:49 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks so far for the answers. This is more help than I could have hoped for.

The support line is great, and we'll definitely use that.

He went AWOL the first time for 9 months, got caught, and was given the suspended sentence. He then started his phase 2 training, completed that, and went to his unit. He wasn't scheduled to go on tour for a few months. He went AWOL because they wouldn't let him go home for the weekend. He told them if they didn't let him go, that he'd go AWOL, they insisted he work, and he walked out the front gates. I don't think he made the right decision, but it is what it is. And I wouldn't have met him otherwise, blah, blah, blah.

They definitely do not like him. He was caught after going AWOL the second time, convinced the two guys who were bringing him in that he had to stop at a family member's house to get his stuff, got out of the car, said "sorry to do this guys" and ran away. I'm worried that because of that, they'll give him a harsher sentence than they might have otherwise.
posted by fruitopia at 2:36 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

has he any history of using the health services?

e.g. mental health issues?

if not, why not?
posted by Wilder at 3:22 PM on November 28, 2012

Finally, I doubt that Canada considers a summary conviction for AWOL grounds to deny entry

Canada considers a conviction for anything at all as grounds to deny entry. They regularly deny entry to Americans whose only criminal record is a DUI 15 years prior.
posted by thewalrus at 4:26 PM on November 28, 2012

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