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R v Page [1954] 1 QB 170

Courts-martial - foreigner killed abroad by British soldier – Extraterritorial jurisdiction

Facts

A British soldier, Harry Richard Page (HRP), killed an Egyptian national in Egypt and was convicted of murder of an Egyptian national by a court-martial. HRP was convicted under section 9 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 (1861 Act) which stated that where a British national commits murder of a person of any nationality, and commits it anywhere outside of the United Kingdom, whether within the Queen's dominions or not, the offence can be dealt with in any place where that person is apprehended or in custody, as if it had been committed in England. This act was applied by a court-martial under section 41 of the Army Act 1881 (1881 Act), which allows trial by court-martial of a person subject to military law who commits murder. HRP appealed against his conviction.

Issue

HRP claimed that a court-martial did not have jurisdiction to try and convict a British solider of murder where the murder was not on British soil or the victim was not British.

Held

The conviction was upheld. There is a general rule of English law that offences committed by British nationals outside of England are not punishable by the English criminal law. However, the combined effect of section 9 of the 1861 Act and section 41 of the 1881 Act was that where a person is subject to military law, they can be tried abroad by a court-martial for any offence, wherever committed and whatever nationality the victim, which would be an offence against the law of England, including murder.


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