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Long-term Absence

Volume 450: debated on Tuesday 24 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what definition his Department uses of long-term illegally absent; and what the punishment is for long-term absence. (91285)

In relation to members of the armed forces, offences relating to absence are set out in sections 37 and 38 of the Army Act 1955 (with equivalent provisions under the Air Force Act 1955 and the Naval Discipline Act 1957). There are two main relevant offences: absence without leave and desertion. There are no separate offences of short-term illegal absence or long-term illegal absence. To be guilty of the offence of being absent without leave, an individual must knowingly and intentionally be away from their unit, or place of duty, without reasonable explanation. A member of the armed forces is guilty of desertion if he is absent without leave either with the intention of remaining permanently absent, or with the intention of avoiding service abroad or to avoid service before an enemy.

The maximum sentence for being absent without leave is two years’ imprisonment. The maximum sentence for desertion is life imprisonment.