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38/1995 Best Evidence Policy - Statements of Service
National Office Instruction
amending General Orders (1993 edition)
Instruction No. 38
Date of Effect: 27 March 1995
BEST EVIDENCE POLICY
- STATEMENTS OF SERVICE
The purpose of this instruction is to further refine the application of the 'best evidence' policy.
The 'best evidence' policy was introduced by COI 19 on 1 January 1993 and clarified for Malaya/Singapore service by COI 34 on 1 November 1994.
As mentioned in COI 19, one of the prime considerations in introducing this policy was to improve our service to clients. It was recognised that any decision making process involves some element of risk, but that the new approach to determining eligibility was about improving our turnaround times without unduly risking the accuracy and integrity of the process. The main thrust of the policy was to widen the circumstances in which forms of Defence documentation other than service checks, could be used to determine service eligibility. In addition, it allowed the use of records held elsewhere in the Department.
The original instruction indicated that the new policy would be monitored to gauge its effectiveness and that we would be seeking appropriate feedback. Indeed, it was valuable feedback from staff which led to the issue of COI 34 clarifying the arrangements for determining Malaya/Singapore service.
Impressions are that the 'best evidence' policy for determining eligibility is working well and that our service to clients has improved as a direct result of its introduction. We remain committed to continuing this approach.
A recent case brought to our attention however, has highlighted the risk associated with 'best evidence' and the need to be ever vigilant in its operation.
The case involved a statement of service which indicated that the applicant had served for five years and two hundred and thirty two days at a time when the required minimum period was three years. A subsequent service check done because a delegate noticed that the total period of service was for an unusual or uneven period, resulted in advice from Defence that the person had been AWOL for three years and furthermore, had been discharged by reason of misconduct or misbehaviour.
As statements of service make no reference to non-effective service and misconduct discharges, it is important to be aware of the potential risk in accepting them. This is not to say that they may not still be used for determining eligibility. For example, if the statement indicated that the applicant had served a neat three, six or nine years, it would be reasonable to assume that the discharge occurred as a result of completion of service for which the person was engaged. Delegates would also be aware that the engagement periods for officers differ from those for 'other ranks' and that the incidence of misconduct terminations of service among officers is minimal. If the total period of service as indicated on the statement is not substantially greater than the required minimum period, a service check should be done to ascertain whether it included any non-effective service. Where a statement of service indicated that the person had served for nine years when the required minimum period was a period beyond six years, it would be reasonable to assume that the person's service did not include non-effective service of at least three years. In other words, it would be reasonable to determine eligibility favourably in such cases. Likewise, statements which indicated that the person was awarded campaign medals for conflicts covered under the Defence Service Homes Act 1918 may be used for determining eligibility favourably. We do not regard it necessary for service checks to be done to rule out misconduct discharges where there is no good reason to suspect that the person's service may have ended in that fashion.
Policy to be applied
As mentioned in COI 19, a service check may be required where a person has been discharged from the Forces and the delegate has reason to believe that there is a possibility that he/she may have had a period of non-effective service or was discharged for misconduct or misbehaviour. Delegates should not request service checks without good reason. An unusual or uneven period of service would be sufficient grounds for seeking further information.
Attached are amended pages 55 - 58 for the Eligibility General Orders. Please replace the existing pages with the amended version. The sixth paragraph of Eligibility 13.1 has been amended to read:
'Where eligibility is being claimed on the basis of service on land in Malaya or Singapore between 1 September 1957 and 28 May 1963, it is appropriate that a service check be sent to the Department of Defence. A service check may also be required if, for example, an applicant has served for 6 years 2 days but it is not clear whether the additional service was due to a delay in processing the person's discharge. Where a statement of service is tendered as evidence of service, delegates need to be aware that non-effective service and misconduct discharges if applicable, are not specifically highlighted. Where a statement of service indicates an unusual or uneven period of service, a service check would be considered appropriate. Where a statement of service indicates a neat 3, 6, or 9 years service for example, it is reasonable to assume that the person had completed the period for which he was engaged to serve. A service check to ensure that the discharge was not due to misconduct would not be necessary in such circumstances. Delegates would also be aware that the engagement periods for officers differ from those for 'other ranks' and that the incidence of misconduct terminations of service among officers is minimal. If the total period of service as indicated on the statement is not substantially greater than the required minimum period, a service check should be done to ascertain whether it included any non-effective service. Delegates are to use sound judgement in these matters.'
Effect on previously issued NOIs (previously COIs)
This instruction should be read in conjunction with COI 19 and COI 34, both of which remain unamended.
23 March 1995