Hidden Transcripts of Violence in British Military Courts

Hannah Richards

Academic study of the British military justice system has been restricted to exceptional trials, historiographies of the court martial, military law, and the (largely inadequate) processes and responses to sexual offences. In contrast to its civilian counterparts, little is known about the everyday functioning of the military court centre. This PhD project draws on time spent observing hearings at one of the UK’s permanent military court centres to provide insight into what actually happens inside this ‘closed’ space.


It aims to examine what light the everyday workings of the court centre shed on how vulnerability and protection are navigated within a military context. The project takes seriously the court centre as a space in which messy entanglements between concepts of human rights and military identity appear in fleeting, ambiguous, and confusing ways. It argues that these everyday entanglements work to simultaneously unravel and reinvigorate imaginaries of protection, violence, and vulnerability that pervade the institution.


The contributions of this project are twofold. First, it sheds light on a hitherto understudied space; building on the work of historians and legal scholars, the project seeks to populate, animate, and document the world of military justice for scholars working across a range of disciplines. Second, the project shows how military personnel experience the state and its violences in various ways. Within the court centre, the state is made present in the lives of military personnel as a source of violence and protection, power and vulnerability.