About the Tribunal
In 1955, the Courts-Martial Appeal Tribunal was established under the Courts-Martial Appeals Act 1955. The Tribunal was later renamed the Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal by the Defence Force (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. The Courts-Martial Appeals Act 1955 was also renamed to Defence Force Discipline Appeals Act 1955.
Prior to the introduction of the Tribunal in 1955 the armed forces had the ultimate review of courts-martial decisions. Internal procedures were adopted by the particular service involved (by which a decision was either confirmed or quashed). In all cases, an automatic review was made by the Judge Advocate General to ensure there was no illegality or miscarriage of justice. The service member involved could submit a petition seeking the quashing of the finding and the sentence. The petition was considered in private on written submissions only, in the absence of the service member, and no reasons needed to be provided for the decision.
The introduction of the Tribunal imposed on courts-martial similar standards of justice applicable in a court of criminal appeal.
The Defence Force Discipline Appeals Regulation 2016 prescribes some of the time limits and practices and procedures of the Tribunal, including for the granting of legal aid.
The Tribunal consists of a President, a Deputy President and such other persons as are appointed to be members of the Tribunal. The members section of this website provides the names of the current President, Deputy President and members.
There is a Registrar of the Tribunal and such deputies of the Registrar as are required. The Registrar has custody of the records of the Tribunal and of documents lodged with him or her or a Deputy Registrar. The principal office (registry) of the Tribunal is located in Melbourne. The Tribunal also has offices in each of the other capital cities.
The Tribunal is empowered under the Defence Force Discipline Appeals Act 1955 to hear and determine appeals by persons who have been convicted or who have been acquitted of a Service offence on the ground of unsoundness of mind ('a prescribed acquittal') by a court martial or a Defence Force magistrate under the Defence Force Discipline Act 1982. It may determine an appeal in one of the following ways: it may allow an appeal and quash the conviction or prescribed acquittal; it may quash a conviction or prescribed acquittal and order a retrial, it may quash a conviction and substitute for the conviction so quashed an acquittal on the ground of unsoundness of mind and direct that the appellant be kept in strict custody until the pleasure of the Governor-General is known; or, if it finds that the appellant was unfit to stand trial, it may allow the appeal, quash the conviction or prescribed acquittal and direct that the appellant be kept in strict custody until the pleasure of the Governor-General is known. Subject to the reference of questions of law and appeals on questions of law to a Full Court of the Federal Court of Australia, the Tribunal's determination is final.
In addition to the above powers, the Tribunal has general procedural powers. It has the power to order that no report of or relating to the whole or a specified part of the proceedings of the Tribunal at a sitting of the Tribunal be published. The President is charged with the power to determine the times and places, which may include places outside Australia, of sittings of the Tribunal. He or she also has other general administrative powers.
When hearing appeals, the Tribunal is required to consist of an uneven number of members, being a number of not less than three. Generally, the President or Deputy President presides at the hearings. A single member may exercise certain powers of the Tribunal ancillary to an appeal.