back to article How do you run a military court over Zoom? With 28 bullet points and a ceremonial laptop flunkey, of course!

A bizarre new court protocol for sentencing military criminals over Zoom includes instructions for the ceremonial carrying of a laptop and webcam in and out of the courtroom. In no fewer than 28 bullet points the UK's Military Court Service, (MCS) which deals with officers, soldiers, sailors and airmen accused of crimes, has …

  1. The Central Scrutinizer

    Ah, the British, still living in the 11th century while struggling to grapple with the 21st.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      11th century

      Of course that was an illegal usurption and everything done since then in the name of the Law has been illegal.

    2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
      Coat

      **Angrily slurps tea followed by tutting and muttering gibberish**

      1. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Speedy Justice

        The downside of using Zoom for trials, you only have one hour before the session cuts off.

        -Also-

        "Warning: Your sentencing cannot continue until you update your Zoom Meeting plug in to the latest version."

    3. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      May be its 11th century, but it definitely beats more modern and left-wing friendly “troika” heatings of Stalin’s Russia.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

    does that then mean we will also be subject to the same Hanging, Drawing and Quartering by Zoom ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      Re: If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

      Grow up. By Zoom or otherwise.

      ( Mine's the one with the Conservative And Unionist membership card in the pocket, because I'm an adult )

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

        What a bizarre comment - one is an adult only if one is a member of a certain political party?? I'm sure there's a word for that.

    2. Andytug
      Joke

      Re: If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

      Well... they do say that one more look and your heart goes Boom.....

    3. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

      Even with the emergency powers currently in place BoJo has no ability to do anything other than what has been allowed by parliament and he has no control over Parliament, He only has the majority of MPs currently agreeing to let him make daily decisions and propose laws (propose, not enact).

      Only a year ago it was perfectly clear to see that actual power lies with Parliament, laws were passed that the PM (T.M. & B.J.) disagreed with but could do nothing to prevent, the supreme court annulled a decision made by BoJo because they deemed it to be beyond the acceptable level of leeway used historically.

      If you want an example of UK martial law read about Oliver Cromwells tenure, then ask yourself just how plausible anything remotely like that has of being put in motion today in the UK.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        Re: If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

        But he is doing things that the parent poster doesn't want, therefore we *must* be living under a dictatorship.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

        "Only a year ago it was perfectly clear to see that actual power lies with Parliament, laws were passed that the PM (T.M. & B.J.) disagreed with but could do nothing to prevent, the supreme court annulled a decision made by BoJo because they deemed it to be beyond the acceptable level of leeway used historically."

        Likewise, it seems a certain Donald J. Trump is only just now realising that his own Supreme Court will enforce the law as written, not as Mr Trump thinks it ought to be, even after he "rebalanced" it in his favour.

    4. osakajin Bronze badge

      Re: If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

      Presumably the disembowelment and strangulation would have to be DIY to maintain social distancing?

      1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: If the Boris Johnson Junta decides to declare Martial Law

        Not necessarily! Allow me to introduce you to the TortureBot 3000.

  3. Julian Bradfield

    Lazy

    Gareth hasn't read the document properly. There is no "ceremonial" removal of any laptop, it just goes along with its user - it's the court administrator's laptop that is removed during deliberation, not the judge's. Fairly obviously, a private deliberation shouldn't have somebody else's laptop there!

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Lazy

      Agree. Normally the panel retire to deliberate and everyone else waits in the courtroom, here it's just swapped and the event deliberately made obvious.

      What it does presuppose though is that good WiFi exists wherever the court administrator goes. (or very long wires)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Lazy

        "What it does presuppose though is that good WiFi exists wherever the court administrator goes. (or very long wires)"

        Maybe that's why they have a mobile phone and the judge texts them to come back in. At least that's what I think I read in the article.

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Re: Lazy

          I interpreted it as the judge panel no longer being 'in' the actual ongoing meeting* after the administrator left (effectively taking the courtroom), and that texting was the easiest way of bringing everyone back. Assumption being the administrator may not have moved just into the next room.

          * The meeting being a virtual courtroom, I'd think the object of this is to replicate the existing courtroom process exactly, because what constitutes a courtroom in session has many centuries of applied law & precedent, if anything is changed ad-hoc the implications could be profound.

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Lazy

            Yes, this exactly.

            Instead of coming up with a complex and expensive software solution that will be cancelled in 20 years time with 10 billion spent on it they've just stuck a laptop running with Zoom on where somebody would normally be physically sitting in the court room and then carried on precisely as normal.

            Where somebody should walk around the courtroom and introduce themselves they've instead had their laptop carried around to do the job.

            Where somebody should leave the room, their laptops are carried out of the room. When an usher ought to go and get the person from the room, they've replaced that with a telephone call saying "connect again, we're going to carry your laptop back in".

            To be honest, as a "let's get it done" solution i'd give them 10/10 and suggest that it be rolled out to the magistrates court which is currently only hearing desperately important cases. In person.

  4. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Do we have any details...

    On the make and model of the laptops used, OS involved etc...

    Just wondering what devices are considered safe for this sort of thing by the MOD/military courts etc.

    Enquiring minds and all that.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Do we have any details...

      Probably HP. At least 5 years old, possibly much more. And costing five or more times the usual retail price because the purchase order specified a 15 life for support and parts.

    2. TwistedPsycho

      Re: Do we have any details...

      I think the fact they are using Zoom, rather than an in-house (or even in-Government) developed system speaks volumes.

      Are we suggesting there is no secure system for video conferencing anywhere in the military? Surely the National Cyber Security Centre / 77th Brigade should have its development as part of its remit to modernise Military & Security communications?

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

        Re: Do we have any details...

        Away with you and your sensible ideas.

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Do we have any details...

        I think the fact they are using Zoom, rather than an in-house (or even in-Government) developed system speaks volumes.

        Not really. The military requirement has generally been for very, very secure voice traffic via radio and satellite. That requirement has been met and solutions they needed delivered.

        I would lay good money on the fact that at the beginning of this year almost everybody would have turned around and said "why would we want that?" to mass scale video conferencing because there was no real need anywhere before a major pandemic turned up.

        Faced with a sudden unanticipated need they've just picked up a usable off the shelf system which works now, rather than developing something from scratch which might be ready in a few years time. I don't see the problem personally, i'm sure that a proprietary solution will be developed in a few years time at an eye watering cost and deployed after the point that anybody wants to use it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Do we have any details...

          >>>Not really. The military requirement has generally been for very, very secure voice traffic via radio and satellite. That requirement has been met and solutions they needed delivered.

          Yes, just ask Priti Patel. She is under contract for Viasat.

  5. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Laptop?

    How do you use one of those when standing to attention?

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Laptop?

      One handed.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Laptop?

      "How do you use one of those when standing to attention?"

      Carefully balanced on your "at attention" swagger stick?

  6. OssianScotland Silver badge
    Pirate

    If sentenced to a Firing Squad

    Would the accused be replaced with the laptop, or would they use a suitable FPS?

    (enquiring minds etc....)

    (Yes, I know, Firing Squads are so last century....)

    (We need more icons!)

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: If sentenced to a Firing Squad

      Only if they connect over fire wire...

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: If sentenced to a Firing Squad

        Powerpoint -> Insert Bullets

        Edit: I see commentard IGotOut beat me to the joke further down this page. Oh well. I shall leave this here so you can all sneer at my tardiness.

  7. Simian Surprise

    I hope that while the laptop is removed and the court is deliberating, the court administrator asks the attorneys "So, how are you feeling about your chances?", Jesse Thorn style.

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    My one and only experience of a court martial was that it was a strange mixture of formal and informal. After the morning's session the court adjourned for lunch - not quite an officer's mess AFAICR* - but somewhat formal and I was invited along. I, as a witness, found myself sitting next to the judge. That never happened in a civil court.

    * Which isn't very much given the events of the previous evening. Top tip: be very careful when drinking with army sergeants. Especially MPs. And very especially SIB, the military equivalent of CID.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Pint

      The army's not been the same since Wellington's time. When the ration was a third of a pint of rum per day! That put hairs on their chests... In unfortunate circumstances, where supplies were difficult, the substitution was made for a rather poor pint of local wine - barely enough to get by, I'm sure you'll agree.

      But in their free time, I believe the army still try to maintain the traditions.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Also The Navy is indirectly responsible for the creation of the Italian Mafia. To supply the Navy with all the citrus fruits to prevent rickets, Italians set up massive profitable citrus (orange?) orchards.

        These profits led to the "lovely orchard you've got that, it'd be a shame...." business model.

        1. Claverhouse Silver badge

          Sort of... The Mafia was down to the infernal stupidity of the Whig [ radical but Establishment: his pa was the Whig prime minister, the Duke of Portland ] Lord William Bentinck, utterly determined to castrate Sicily's monarchy and replace it as in England with a fake monarchy and a 'constitution' * with the local aristocracy ruling in reality; just like England. **

          .

          After that the barons crushed the peasantry and hired 'security': these latter became Mafia groupings, and crushed the peasantry on their own behalf. The lack of strong regal power meant neither the barons nor the mafia could be crushed. Then the mafioso flourished under the new liberal Italian regime kicked off by Garibaldi --- a strong contender for biggest bore of the 19th century himself --- through the Democrazia Cristiana to within living memory. ***

          .

          [ In sharp contrasdiction to the neo-Jacobite Lord Nelson, who knew what to do with Neapolitan-Sicilian rebels. ]

          .

          * 19th century Britons talking about the British Constitution were just as boring and inane as modern Americans boasting about their wretched thing.

          * * When he ruled Sicily once he exiled the Queen: he then found the barons insufferable and withdrew his concessions. Shades of idiot Cromwell...

          *** If you are older than the century.

          1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
            Coat

            @Claverhouse - "Garibaldi --- a strong contender for biggest bore of the 19th century himself"

            But I do like his biscuits.

            1. JassMan

              @Allan George Dyer

              Not one of those biscuits has passed my lips since the day (at the age of 6) my uncle told me they were squashed fly biscuits. My father not only agreed with him but said "look, bite the end off, and you can even see the little legs". They they then continued to regale me with stories of Australian Aborigines eating witchety grubs (a very large underground caterpillar which you have to swallow whole) and Africans eating grasshoppers. It only took a week or so to realise it was a ploy to make sure the grown-ups had more biscuits for themselves but the damage was done, and I have never had the courage to taste one again.

              1. NightFox

                I'm guessing you're not a fan of Eccles Cakes then

              2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
                Coat

                We also called them "dead fly biscuits" in my family, probably more often than "Garibaldi". I've never tried witchety grubs but I once had an unpleasant experience eating a sea cucumber.

      2. phuzz Silver badge
        Pint

        That put hairs on their chests

        Well, that could be a problem in today's Army, now that women are allowed to serve.

        Mind you, it might cut down on fraternisation...

        1. Wellyboot Silver badge

          Maybe white wine for the ladies would be an option?

  9. IGotOut Silver badge
    Coat

    Court martials

    And 28 bullet points?

    Not the best outcome for the defense.

  10. steviebuk Silver badge

    So we can't have Huawei

    Kit but its OK to use the Chinese based Zoom, that, at one point (it may have changed) were routing all meetings through China based servers. And if you use the free client, you don't get end-to-end encryption.

  11. StewartWhite

    I prefer the variety in the Peek Freans Trotsky Assortment

    "Revolutionary biscuits of Italy, rise up out of your box, you have nothing to lose but your wafers, yum yum yum yum yum."

  12. Tubz

    Whatever happened to the right of defending yourself face-2-face as in UK law and ECHR, not by a video link ?

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge

      The purpose of these laws is to provide you with the chance to defend yourself and not just receive a 5am wake up call from a team with an execution warrant following a secret trial you knew nothing about.

      Video links allow you to 'see' everyone, hear the evidence and cross examine.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        And don't forget the other point which is preventing justice being delivered by "I have the biggest and most violent mob, and might makes right so we're doing whatever we want".

        Something that it appears going to have to relearn.

    2. 's water music
      Happy

      fmotl ftw

      Whatever happened to the right of defending yourself face-2-face as in UK law and ECHR, not by a video link ?

      ShiRLey tHe seNIOr sERviCe, aT lEasT, opERateS unDEr aDMIRALTy LAW?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why did they use a freakin' Word document?

    PDF or even simple text would have done.

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