Joyce v Director of Public Prosecution

House of Lords; Dec 10, 1945


Petitioner was born in America in 1906 and at the age of 3 years old, he was brought to Ireland. In 1921, he came to England where he stayed until 1939. Note, however, that in 1933 he applied for a British passport describing himself as a British subject by birth, born in Galway. The purpose of the passport was for a holiday tour throughout Europe. He was then granted the passport for a period of 5 years which was continually renewed until 1939. Sometime in 1939, Petitioner left the United Kingdom. He was arrested in 1945 where it was proven that he had been employed by the German Radio Company of Berlin as an announcer of English news and he had broadcast propaganda on behalf of the enemy. The passport was not found in his possession when he has arrested. He was then charged with High Treason by adhering to the King’s enemy outside the King’s real which is in German realm. This is contrary to Treason Act 1351. He was convicted of High Treason. Hence, this case

ISSUE: Can Joyce be convicted of treason outside the United Kingdom?

RULING: YES. An alien abroad holding a British passport enjoys the protection of the Crown and if he is adherent to the king’s enemy, he is guilty of treason so long as he has not renounced that portion. The capability of a state to prosecute and punish its nationals on the sole basis of their nationality is based upon loyalty which person charged with the crime owes to the State of which he is a national. It is now generally accepted that a state may prosecute its nationals for crimes committed anywhere in the world. Moreover, the protective principle was accepted by the House as providing a substitute basis for jurisdiction. Therefore, this appeal was dismissed

The Schooner Exchange v McFaddon

11 U.S. 116; 1812


Two Americans, John McFaddon and William Greetham, claimed that they owned and were entitled to the schooner Exchange they seized on the high seas. The claim which the United States Attorney put forward for the prevention of the ship leaving was that the ship which was owned by the Emperor of France had been forced to enter the port of Philadelphia due to bad weather conditions. During this time, US and France were on friendly terms. The United States’ request for the dismissal of ownership and release of the ship was granted by the district court. However, this judgment was reversed by the circuit court and this did not prevent the United States from appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

ISSUE: Are national ships of war viewed as exempted by the consent of the power of the friendly jurisdiction whose port the ship enters?

RULING: YES.  A public vessel of war of a foreign sovereign at peace with the United States, coming into our ports and demeaning herself in a friendly manner, is exempt from the jurisdiction of the country. 

The jurisdiction of a nation within its own territory, is exclusive and absolute. It is susceptible of no limitation not imposed by itself. Any restriction deriving validity from an external source would imply a diminution of its sovereignty to the extent of that restriction, and an investment of that sovereignty to the same extent in that power which could impose such restriction.

All exceptions to the full and complete power of a nation within its own territories must be traced up to the consent of the nation itself.

The Exchange, being a public armed ship in the service of a foreign sovereign with whom the government of the United States is at peace, and having entered an American port open for her reception on the terms on which ships of war are generally permitted to enter the ports of a friendly power, must be considered as having come into the American territory under an implied promise that while necessarily within it and demeaning herself in a friendly manner, she should be exempt from the jurisdiction of the country.

Lotus Case

PCIJ; Sept 7, 1927


There was a collision of a French vessel and Turkish vessel in the high seas. The Turkish vessel sank which had 10 survivors and killed 8 Turkish nationals. Those who survived were brought to Turkey riding the Fence vessel. The captain and officer of the French vessel was manslaughter in Turkey. Officer Demons, a French man, was sentenced to 80 days imprisonment and a fine. The French Government protested and demanded officer Demon’s release or transfer jurisdiction to a French court. Both Turkey and France decided to bring the case to the Permanent Court of International Justice. 

ISSUE: Did Turkey violate International law when Turkish court exercised jurisdiction over a French man who committed a crime outside Turkey?

RULING: NO. Jurisdiction is territorial. A state cannot exercise jurisdiction outside its territory unless there is an international treaty or  generally accepted principle of international law. However, a state may exercise jurisdiction within its territory even if there is no specific rule of international law allowing it to do so. It is the state who has discretion which is limited by the rules of international law. 

In the case at bar, both countries had concurrent jurisdiction over the accident. A ship in the high seas is absorbed by the flag it carries. The flag state may exercise jurisdiction over the ship the same way over its territory. . The court absorbed the Turkish vessel as if it is on their land which the Turkish laws cannot be challenged even if committed by foreigners. Thus, Turkey had jurisdiction over this case.

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