Regina v Page: CMAC 1954

The defendant, a corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals had been tried and convicted by a Court Martial in Egypt for the murder of an Egyptian national in an Egyptian village. The issue in the appeal was whether a Court Martial had jurisdiction under the statute creating it to try for murder a British subject who had killed an alien abroad in circumstances which would amount to murder if the killing was done in England and Wales. It was argued that section 9 of the 1861 Act extended the law of murder beyond the offence of murder at common law where the victim had to be a British subject, otherwise the requirement that the killing should be ‘within the Queen’s peace would not be satisfied.
Held: The appeal failed. The general rule of English law had been that the offences committed by British subjects out of England were not punishable by the criminal law of England. Statute had made exceptions to that rule, including the statute of King Henry VIII. After considering the statutory provisions that governed the jurisdiction of Courts Martial, the court concluded that a person subject to military law could be tried for any offence, wherever committed, which would be an offence against the law of England; the crime of murder when defined in a statute had the meaning it always had: an unlawful killing with malice aforethought.
As to the comment of Lord Ellenborough in R v Serva ‘That, of course, is entirely intelligible. Nobody would suggest that an English court could try an alien for an offence not committed on English soil.’ Speaking as to whether the victim of a killing committed abroad had historically to be a British subject if the killing was to amount to murder. He observed: ‘It was no doubt to allay any doubts that there may have been on the subject that section 9 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 is in such wide terms . . We have no doubt that when the word ‘murder’ is found in a statute it has the meaning which has always attached to it throughout the ages, namely, an unlawful killing with malice aforethought.’


Lord Goddard CJ, Havers and Glyn Jones JJ


[1954] 1 QB 170


Offences Agansit the Persons Act 1981 9


CitedRegina v Serva and nine others 26-Jul-1845
The court considered the meaning of the phrase ”against the peace of the King’
Held: The phrase applies to the offender: it relates to his capacity to commit the crime. . .

Cited by:

CitedRegina v Abu Hamza CACD 28-Nov-2006
The defendant had faced trial on terrorist charges. He claimed that delay and the very substantial adverse publicity had made his fair trial impossible, and that it was not an offence for a foreign national to solicit murders to be carried out . .
CitedRegina v Adebolajo and Another CACD 3-Dec-2014
The defendants had been convicted of the brutal and public murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in London, and sentenced to whole life term for Adebolajo and 45 years for Adebowale. They now sought leave to appeal against conviction and sentence.
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Crime, Armed Forces

Updated: 01 May 2022; Ref: scu.247652