Findlay v. United Kingdom

24 E.H.R.R. 221 (1997)

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Findlay v. United Kingdom

European Court of Human Rights
24 E.H.R.R. 221 (1997)


British soldier Lance-Sergeant Alexander Findlay (plaintiff) had combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While drunk, Findlay threatened to kill himself, held two members of his military unit at gunpoint, and shot a television. Major General Robert Corbett was the convening officer who issued the charges against Findlay and convened a court-martial. Corbett also helped appoint the court-martial’s five deciding members. All five members were subordinate to Corbett in rank, and some of the members were directly under Corbett’s command. In addition, Corbett appointed the prosecuting and defending officers. Because the convening officer was also the confirming authority, Corbett could either confirm or unilaterally alter any sentence that the court-martial issued to Findlay. A judge advocate was appointed to the court-martial to determine the law, but some of this legal advice was given in secret. At trial, Findlay pleaded guilty. Findlay’s attorney asked for leniency based on Findlay’s PTSD, requesting a quiet discharge when Findlay’s service ended in a few months. Instead, without providing any reasons, the court-martial members sentenced Findlay to two years in prison, lowered his rank, and dismissed him from service early, harming his pension entitlement. Corbett confirmed the sentence, also without explanation. Although Findlay’s sentence was reviewed, the reviews were conducted (1) behind closed doors and (2) by people with no legal training who relied on the recommendation of the same judge advocate who had handled the court-martial. The secretive reviews affirmed Findlay’s sentence. Findlay lodged a complaint with the European Commission of Human Rights (commission), arguing that the court-martial proceedings had violated the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (convention). The commission found that the proceedings violated the convention because the proceedings had not been conducted by an independent and impartial tribunal. The United Kingdom (defendant) appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)

Concurrence (De Meyer, J.)

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