Courts martial system in breach of human rights

Click to follow
Britain's system of courts martial was condemned for a second time yesterday by the European Court of Human Rights.

But the Strasbourg judges' refusal to award compensation to RAF officer Paul Coyne could deter hundreds more potential complainants from bringing claims.

Mr Coyne's case was the latest in a series of appeals by former service personnel in the wake of a ruling in February that the courts martial system - essentially trial by superior officer rather than independent adjudicator - broke article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to a fair trial.

The UK moved swiftly to reform the system, implementing changes in the 1996 Armed Forces Act in April. There are likely to be sighs of relief within the Ministry of Defence. Despite the reforms the MoD had feared multiple compensation claims.

However, the Strasbourg judges rejected Mr Coyne's claim for the drop in income and earning capacity which he had suffered since a conviction by a courts martial for forgery in January 1994. The judges said there was no difference between Mr Coyne's case and February's claim by Falklands veteran Alex Findlay against the Army. But the court could not speculate as to what the outcome of Mr Coyne's trial might have been had it been fair and could not award compensation.