Associate Professor David Letts AM CSM

Director - Military Law Program, 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 Director 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
  • 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

21
Aug
2017
Subi Reef
The Chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and leading international law experts will speak at an ANU College of Law event this week.
21
Aug
2017
Dr William Boothby, Professor Michael Schmitt and Professor Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg
August is a busy month for the Centre for Military and Security Law at ANU College of Law, hosting three international law experts.
03
Jul
2017
Launch of updated commentary on Second Geneva Convention
In the years since the Second World War, the international community has been fortunate not to see many conflicts at sea. However in a world where conflict is rife, with regional maritime border disputes continuing to make headlines, we can't be complacent.
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.

In the Media

13
Aug
2018
David Letts speaks to Sydney Morning Herald
11
Jun
2018
David Letts speaks to The Canberra Times
12
Jun
2017
David Letts writes in The Daily Telegraph

Upcoming events

05
Sep
2018
Event image
6.00PM to 9.00PM Film screening
  • Professor Siobhán Wills, Ulster University
  • Associate Professor David Letts AM CSM, ANU College of Law
  • Associate Professor Jeremy Farrall, ANU College of Law

Between 2005 and 2007, United Nations peacekeeping troops carried out several raids in Cité Soleil - an economically depressed neighbourhood of Port au Prince, Haiti.

Past events

30
May
2018
Event image
12.00PM to 1.00PM CIPL International Law Lunchtime Seminar
  • Associate Professor David Letts, ANU College of Law

At present there are a number of confidence building measures underway, led by different organisations, that seek to address regional tensions in the maritime domain in South East Asia. 

14
May
2018
Event image
3.30PM to 4.30PM Law Week Roadshow
  • Associate Professor Jeremy Farrall, ANU College of Law
  • Associate Professor Sarah Heathcote, ANU College of Law
  • Associate Professor David Letts, ANU College of Law

We are living through a period of pronounced global tension, prompting significant shifts in the foreign and domestic policies of major powers.

07
Mar
2017
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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. 

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 Director 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 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)
  • "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
  • “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
  • "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

Refereed journal articles

  • "A review of selected measures for reducing potential conflict among naval vessels in the South China Sea" Operational Maritime Law Vol 1 (2018) 143-160 
  • "Maritime Law Enforcement and the Aggravation of the South China Sea Dispute: Implications for Australia", Volume 34 Australian Yearbook of International Law, (2017) 53-63 (with Rob McLaughlin and Hitoshi Nasu) 
  • "Naval mines: Legal considerations in armed conflict and peacetime" International Review of the Red Cross (2016), 98(2), 543-565 
  • "Call-Out Powers for the Australian Defence Force in an Age of Terrorism: Some Legal Implications" (2016) 85 AIAL Forum 63 (with Rob McLaughlin) 
  • "Beyond Hague VIII: Other Legal Limits on Naval Mine Warfare" 90 International Law Studies 446 (2014) 
  • “Recent Australian Experience of the Law of the Sea and Military Operations” (2005) Australian Year Book of International Law Vol 24 pp 129-144 
  • “The Use of Force in Patrolling Australia’s Fishing Zones” (2000) Marine Policy Vol 24 Issue 2 pp 149-159

Conference papers & presentations

  • "The Australia/Timor-Leste Boundary Dispute" paper presented at 31st US Pacific Command MILOPS Conference, Singapore, April 2018
  • "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
  • "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
  • Soft law and warships: measures for reducing conflict at sea” ANZSIL Annual Conference, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand, July 2015
  • "The role of a lawyer when deployed on military operations", Universidad Bernardo O’Higgins, Santiago de Chile, March 2015
  • “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
  • “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
  • "Operation Sovereign Borders: Charting the Legal Issues", Panelist for CMSL Public Seminar, ANU College of Law, February 2014

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

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.

    Previous courses

    Year Course code Course name
    2017 LAWS8162
    Class #1476
    Military Operations Law
    2017 LAWS8161
    Class #9306
    Military Legal Practice
    2016 LAWS8253
    Class #9666
    Law of The Sea
    2017 LAWS8253
    Class #6862
    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

    July 2018 CMSL Submission to Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee's inquiry into the Defence Amendment (Call out of the Australian Defence Force) Bill 2018
    April 2015 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
    February 2015 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

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