Associate Professor David Letts AM CSM

Associate Professor
BComm (UNSW), Dip Law (NSW SAB), Grad Dip Legal Practice (UTS, Sydney), LLM (ANU)
+61 2 6125 4651
Room 310

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Research Theme

Biography

Associate Professor David Letts is Director of the Military Law Program, and one of the Co-Directors of the Centre for Military and Security Law, at the ANU College of Law. He arrived at ANU in late 2012 after a career of more than three decades in the Royal Australian Navy.

David’s research interests centre upon the application of legal regimes to military operations, and he has written on topics including military justice, law of the sea, the law of naval warfare, international humanitarian law and the legal issues which arise on peacekeeping operations.

Since joining the ANU College of Law David has been a regular public commentator on government policy which affects the legality of Australian military operations and his opinion is regularly sought by the media.

Appointments

  • Director, Military Law Program, ANU College of Law
  • Co-Director, Centre for Military and Security Law, ANU College of Law
  • Member, International Institute of Humanitarian Law, San Remo, Italy
  • Member, Australian Red Cross (ACT Branch) IHL Committee

Awards

Year Title
2011 Member of the Order of Australia

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1997 Conspicuous Service Medal

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Recent news

10
Aug
2016
ILA South Africa

Five senior academics from the ANU College of Law will represent Australia this week at the 77th Biennial Conference of the International Law Association, the key global gathering of international law scholars and practitioners.

30
Mar
2016

It's time for Australia to consider how our security agencies and defence resources are used in the face of increasing terrorism write ANU Law military law experts Rob McLaughlin and David Letts.

26
Feb
2016

While tanks and submarines are still required, technological advances in drones, cyber warfare and artificial intelligence mean it's vital our defence industry keeps an eye on future battlespaces, write ANU military law experts Hitoshi Nasu, David Letts and Rob McLaughlin.

16
Nov
2015

As tensions rise again in the South China Sea, actions – and not just words – are required if Australia is to protect its strategic interests, and ensure that international legal norms are not ignored.

In the Media

Past events

07
Mar
2017
Event image
5.30PM to 7.00PM
Seminar
  • A/Prof Rob McLaughlin
  • Dr Dominique Dalla-Pozza
  • Prof Bruce Oswald
  • Prof Dale Stephens
  • A/Prof Cameron Moore

This opening seminar for 2017, hosted by the Centre for Military and Security Law, will provide a unique opportunity to hear from a panel of Australia’s foremost military and security law experts. 

07
Sep
2016
Event image
5.30PM to 6.45PM
Seminar
  • Dr Cameron Moore, University of New England
  • A/Prof Rob McLaughlin, ANU College of Law

Going to war is the most profound exercise of public power, and killing in war is its most profound expression. As much as killing in war, or injuring, capturing and destroying in war, has been occurring since ancient times, there is very little in domestic or international law that expressly authorises it. 

17
Aug
2016
CIPL Tuesday Talks
5.30PM to 7.00PM
CIPL Monthly Talk
  • Mr Bill Campbell QC
  • Ms Katrina Cooper
  • Associate Professor David Letts
  • Professor Donald R Rothwell

On 12 July 2016, the Annex VII Tribunal on the South China Sea maritime dispute unanimously decided that there was no legal foundation under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea for China's nine-dash line and that China had supported activities infringing the Philipines' fishing and maritime rights.

Please note, only a small selection of recent publications and activities are listed below.

Research biography

Associate Professor David Letts is Director of the Military Law Program, and one of the Co-Directors of the Centre for Military and Security Law, at the ANU College of Law. He arrived at ANU in late 2012 after a career of more than three decades in the Royal Australian Navy.

David’s research interests centre upon the application of legal regimes to military operations, and he has written on topics including military justice, law of the sea, the law of naval warfare, international humanitarian law and the legal issues which arise on peacekeeping operations.

Since joining the ANU College of Law David has been a regular public commentator on government policy which affects the legality of Australian military operations and his opinion is regularly sought by the media.

Book chapters

  • “The Royal Australian Navy, the Constitution and the Law – Then and Now” in David Stevens and John Reeve (eds) Southern Trident: Strategy, History and the Rise of Australian Naval Power, (Allen and Unwin, Sydney, 2001) pp 276-290
  • “Peacekeepers in Post-Conflict Situations – Upholding the Rule of Law” in Ustina Dolgopol and Judith Gardam (eds) The Challenge of Conflict (Koninklijke Brill BV, 2006) pp 529-545
  • "A Maritime School of Strategic Thought for Australia: Legal Considerations" in Justin Jones (ed) A Maritime School of Strategic Thought for Australia: Perspectives (Sea Power Centre - Australia, 2013) pp 137-143
  • "The Law of Naval Warfare: International Humanitarian Law in the Maritime Domain" (with Rob McLaughlin) in Rain Liivoja and Tim McCormack (eds) Routledge Handbook of the Law of Armed Conflict (2016)

Refereed journal articles

  • “The Use of Force in Patrolling Australia’s Fishing Zones” (2000) Marine Policy Vol 24 Issue 2 pp 149-159
  • “Recent Australian Experience of the Law of the Sea and Military Operations” (2005) Australian Year Book of International Law Vol 24 pp 129-144
  • "Beyond Hague VIII: Other Legal Limits on Naval Mine Warfare" 90 International Law Studies 446 (2014)
  • "Call-Out Powers for the Australian Defence Force in an Age of Terrorism: Some Legal Implications" (2016) 85 AIAL Forum 63
  • "A review of selected measures for reducing potential conflict among naval vessels in the South China Sea" Operational Maritime Law Vol 1 (forthcoming 2016-17)

Conference papers & presentations

  • "Operation Sovereign Borders: Charting the Legal Issues", Panelist for CMSL Public Seminar, ANU College of Law, February 2014
  • “Forced Boarding at Sea – from Refugees to the Sea Shepherd, what does the law allow?”, Panelist for NSW Young Labor Public Seminar, Sydney, April 2014
  • “The Royal Australian Navy and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea: 20th anniversary of entry into force of UNCLOS – retrospective and prospective considerations”, Co-Convenor and Session Chair, Fleet HQ, Sydney, November 2014
  • "Categories of Conflict at Sea and their Rules of Engagement", paper presented at a Forum on International Humanitarian Law on Conflicts at Sea (also provided closing Synthesis), Institute of International Legal Studies, University of the Philippines Law Center, Manila, November 2014
  • "The role of a lawyer when deployed on military operations", Universidad Bernardo O’Higgins, Santiago de Chile, March 2015
  • Soft law and warships: measures for reducing conflict at sea” ANZSIL Annual Conference, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand, July 2015
  • 'The RAN and the Law' , Centre for Military and Security Law & UNE School of Law, "Law, War and Memory - Centenary of ANZAC Legal History Symposium", UNE Armidale, November 2015
  • 'Military operations at sea: maintaining the distance between inadvertent conflict and freedom of navigation' International Society for Military Law and the Law of War/Exeter University Law School Conference "The International Law of Military Operations: Mapping the Field", Exeter University, 22 June 2016

Committees

External Organisations

  • Australian Red Cross ACT International Humanitarian Law Committee
  • ACT Law Society Military Law Committee

Internal ANU Committees

  • Military Law Program Committee (Chair)
  • Military Law Contract Committee
  • ANU College of Law College Education Committee
  • ANU College of Law Graduate Coursework Committee

Case notes & book reviews

David Letts, ‘Book Review: Australian Maritime Law by Dr Michael White’ (3rd Ed 2014) in Ethos (Journal of the ACT Law Society) September 2014

Currently supervising

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
    Topic: Saving the sum of things for pay: International Humanitarian Law - Mercenaries as combatant capability

LLM Masters thesis supervision

I am willing to supervise in areas related to my academic interests.

 

 

Honours thesis supervision

I am willing to supervise in areas related to my academic interests.

 

    Current courses

    Year Course code Course name
    2017 LAWS8162
    Class #1476
    Military Operations Law
    2017 LAWS8253
    Class #6862
    Law of The Sea
    2017 LAWS8161
    Class #9306
    Military Legal Practice

    Previous courses

    Year Course code Course name
    2016 LAWS8253
    Class #9666
    Law of The Sea

    Philosophy & approach

    I combine legal knowledge with practical legal and military experience so that students can contextualise how the law might apply in their own environment. My hope is that classes not only provide detailed legal content to students but are also a place where information exchange can take place in an open and interactive manner.

    Past courses

    • Law of the Sea (LLM)
    • Maritime Security Law (LLM)
    • Military Operations Law (LTM2 and LTM3)
    • Military Administrative Law (LTM2 and LTM3)
    • Military Discipline Law (LTM2 and LTM3)
    • Military Legal Practice (LTM2)

    How my works connects with public policy

    CMSL Submission (with Rob McLaughlin) to Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee’s inquiry into Defence Legislation Amendment (Military Justice Enhancements—Inspector-General ADF) Bill 2014

    CMSL Submission (with Rob McLaughlin and Hitoshi Nasu) to Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee’s inquiry into the potential use by the Australian Defence Force of unmanned air, maritime and land platforms

    Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team