HC Deb 01 March 2002 vol 380 c1624W
Mr. Jenkin

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Case of Morrisv. the United Kingdom; and what plans he has to bring forward legislation to make changes to service law in response to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. [39687]

Mr. Ingram

The European Court of Human Rights delivered its judgment in the case of Morris v. the United Kingdom on 26 February. The Court noted that the changes to the court martial system made by the Armed Forces Act 1996 have gone a long way to meeting the concerns expressed in the Findlay case. However, it found that there had been a violation of article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which concerns the right to a fair hearing, as regards some aspects of Mr Morris's trial by court martial in 1997.

The Court was concerned about the potential for undue external influence over certain members of the court martial panel; and about the procedures for involving non-judicial authorities in the review of court martial findings and sentences. We are assessing the implications of the Court's judgment for the future conduct of court martial and whether any changes that may be necessary require the legislation to be amended. Army and Royal Air Force court martials that are imminently scheduled are being postponed, but for the time being trials in the Royal Navy are continuing in view of the nature of the regulations in that Service concerning the position of court martial members.

I shall make an announcement as soon as our assessment of the implications of the judgment has been completed. However, we do not consider that the judgment fundamentally affects the court martial system, which we intend to retain as an effective and fair means of administering discipline and justice in our armed forces.