RAF war objector sentenced to 8 months
The Times

An RAF doctor who refused to serve in Iraq because he thought that the war was illegal has been sentenced to eight months in prison.

Flight Lieutenant Dr Malcolm Kendall-Smith, 37, was also dismissed from the RAF by a panel of fellow officers after he was found guilty of disobeying five lawful orders for refusing to travel in Basra last year.

After a medical examination, Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith will be taken to a military prison in Colchester, Essex, where he will be stripped of his rank and transferred to the Prison Service for his sentence, which he will serve as Dr Kendall-Smith.

During his case, Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith, who served with distinction in Afghanistan and twice deployed to Iraq, argued that he had become convinced that the war in Iraq was an act of aggression and that he would be complicit in an illegal war if he went to the country for a third time.

But his argument was dismissed during a pre-trial hearing and at a three-day court martial in Aldershot this week. A panel of five RAF officers said that at the time Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith was given his orders — to attend sessions for training and helmet-fitting, as well as flying to Basra — the war in Iraq had the legal support of Parliament, the UN and the Iraqi Government.

Today, his solicitor, Justin Hugheston-Roberts, said that the airman, the first officer charged with disobeying orders in Iraq, was "clearly upset" by the verdict but determined to bring an appeal.

"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," said Mr Hugheston-Roberts, before reading out a statement from his client:

"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," said Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith.

An RAF spokeswoman said that the Ministry of Defence "noted" the court's verdict but declined to comment further, citing Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith's plan to appeal.

Sentencing the airman, Judge Advocate Jack Bayliss said a custodial sentence was necessary to reflect the seriousness of his offences.

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

Addressing Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith, the judge said: "You have, in this court’s view, sought to make a martyr of yourself. You have shown a degree of arrogance that is amazing."

During his trial, Flight Lieutenant Kendall-Smith, a unit medical officer for RAF Kinloss in Morayshire and a former philosophy student, said that after being decorated for his his service in Afghanistan, he had studied the legal case for the war in Iraq, including the advice of the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, and had come to believe that the British presence in the country was illegal.

"I have evidence that the Americans were on a par with Nazi Germany with its actions in the Persian Gulf," he said, arguing that he had disobeyed apparently trivial orders to attend pre-deployment training sessions because such "preparatory acts which were equally criminal as the act itself".