RAF man jailed for refusing Iraq duty

Click to follow
The Independent Online

An RAF doctor who refused to serve in Iraq was jailed for eight months and dismissed from the service by a court martial today.

Flight Lieutenant Dr Malcolm Kendall-Smith, who likened the invasion of Iraq to a Nazi war crime, was convicted by a panel of five RAF officers of five charges of failing to comply with lawful orders at the hearing in Aldershot, Hants.

The 37-year-old, who has dual British/New Zealand citizenship, had argued that the that the on-going presence of American-led forces in Iraq was illegal.

Justin Hugheston-Roberts, Kendall-Smith's solicitor, read out a statement from Kendall-Smith outside court in which he said he intended to appeal.

The lawyer said: "Quite clearly the decision of the board is most distressing and the doctor is clearly upset yet resilient.

"However, he has asked me to state that now, more so than ever, he feels that his actions were totally justified and he would not, if placed in the same circumstances, seek to do anything differently.

"As to the preliminary orders given in this trial process and indeed the conviction and sentence that have now taken place, Dr Kendall-Smith has given very clear and unambiguous instructions to lodge an appeal with all haste."

He quoted Kendall-Smith as saying: "I have a very long way yet to travel and I have a great deal of further work yet to do and I will now concentrate my efforts on that task.

"I am still a member of Her Majesty's Armed Forces and will remain so until the sentence has been confirmed by the Air Force authorities. Until that time I have been advised that I am prohibited from speaking publicly.

"I would wish, however, to thank all those people from all over the world and from all walks of life for their good wishes. Their kind thoughts have helped to sustain me in the past months.

"In conclusion, I would wish to restate that I still have two great loves in life - medicine and the Royal Air Force. To take the decision that I did caused me great sadness but I felt that I had no other choice."

RAF Wing Commander Ailsa Gough, staff officer from Strike Command, said outside court: "The MoD notes the court's verdict and its support for the position that, in accordance with the Air Force Act 1955, the orders given to Flt Lt Kendall-Smith were lawful and, therefore, should have been obeyed.

"As it is possible for Flt Lt Kendall-Smith to seek leave to appeal this verdict, it would be inappropriate to comment any further."

In court Judge Advocate Jack Bayliss said that Kendall-Smith would serve half of his sentence in custody and the remainder on licence.

He also ordered him to pay £20,000 towards his defence costs, which were paid by legal aid.

Judge Advocate Bayliss said that the offences were so serious that only a custodial sentence was appropriate.

He added: "Obedience of orders is at the heart of any disciplined force. Disobedience of orders means it is not a disciplined force, it is a disorganised rabble.

"Those who wear the Queen's uniform cannot pick and choose which orders they obey and those who do so must face the consequences."

He added that the sentence would send a message to other members of the armed forces of the importance of obeying orders.

Sentencing Kendall-Smith, Judge Advocate Bayliss told him: "You have, in this court's view, sought to make a martyr of yourself. You have shown a degree of arrogance that is amazing."

He added that Kendall-Smith may have acted out of his moral viewpoint but his interpretation of the presence of British forces in Iraq as illegal was incorrect.

Speaking outside the court, Kendall-Smith's solicitor Mr Hugheston-Roberts said his client intended to appeal. He said: "At the moment the instructions are to appeal both convictions and sentence."

He added that after a period of "demilitarisation" Kendall-Smith, who was also dismissed from the RAF by the court martial panel, will serve his term of imprisonment in a civilian prison.

A spokesman for the Royal Air Force Prosecuting Authority said: "It is right that Ft Lt Malcolm Kendall Smith was prosecuted for disobeying legal orders. British troops are operating in Iraq under a United Nations mandate and at the invitation of the Iraqi government. The Judge Advocate ruled that the court would not accept his defence that the war was illegal and a panel of his peers have convicted him on that basis."