Navy Medic 'Objector' Loses Appeal

A Royal Navy medic found guilty of disobeying a lawful command by refusing to attend rifle training because of his ''moral objection'' to bearing arms and the war in Afghanistan has lost a conviction appeal.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in London rejected a challenge by Michael Lyons, who is serving seven months' detention at a military correction facility in Colchester, Essex.

Lyons, 25, from Plymouth, Devon, who was sentenced in July, had denied the offence at a court martial at Portsmouth Naval Base.

The leading medical assistant was also demoted to the rank of able seaman and dismissed from the service.

He was present in court to hear Lord Justice Toulson, sitting with Mr Justice Openshaw and Mr Justice Hickinbottom, throw out his conviction appeal.

They also dismissed his appeal against his ''manifestly excessive'' sentence.

The court heard that Lyons has four weeks left to serve.

Reasons for the decision will be given in writing on a date to be fixed.

The court martial heard that Lyons had been issued with his order to deploy to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, in May last year.

He then applied through his superior officer to be considered as a conscientious objector in August.

But this was refused a week before he was due to attend SA80 service rifle training at HMS Excellent in Portsmouth on September 20.

On that day, he reported to Warrant Officer Robert Bainbridge and stated that he could not start the course because he had a ''moral objection to bearing arms'' and asked to be ''re-rolled for non-combative duties'', leading him to be charged with disobeying a lawful order.

He then appealed over his conscientious objector status to the Advisory Committee on Conscientious Objectors, but the committee rejected his claim in December, saying he was a ''political objector'', not a ''conscientious objector''.

The court martial heard that Lyons had developed a moral objection to the war in Afghanistan since he originally joined the Navy at the age of 18.

The appeal judges heard submissions on his behalf today from barrister Fiona Edington that the order at the centre of the accusation of ''wilful disobedience'' was ''unlawful''.

She said it contravened Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

During the proceedings, Lord Justice Toulson asked her: ''You say the moment a serviceman asserts orally or in any other way that he is a conscientious objector, it would be incompatible with Article 9 to require him to play any further part in active service until such time there has been a final determination of his claim, including review by judicial review?''

Ms Edington answered: ''My Lord, yes.''

When Lyons was sentenced, Judge Advocate Alistair McGrigor said: ''We are undecided whether your views are genuine or you grasped the straw of conscientious objection as you didn't wish to serve your term (in Afghanistan).''

He added: ''Service personnel cannot pick and choose what service orders they carry out. Disobedience undermines the chain of command and service effectiveness.''

The appeals against conviction and sentence were opposed by the prosecution.

Lyons is due to be released on November 10.