Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of European Court of Human Rights, February 21, 1975 (case CASE OF GOLDER v. THE UNITED KINGDOM)

Resolution Date:February 21, 1975

Violation of Art. 6-1 Violation of Art. 8 Non-pecuniary damage - finding of violation sufficient




(Application no. 4451/70)



21 February 1975

In the Golder case,

The European Court of Human Rights, taking its decision in plenary session in application of Rule 48 of the Rules of Court and composed of the following judges:

Mr.               G. Balladore Pallieri, President,

Mr.               H. Mosler,

Mr.               A. Verdross,

Mr.               E. Rodenbourg,

Mr.               M. Zekia,

Mr.               J. Cremona,

Mrs.               I. H. Pedersen,

Mr.               T. Vilhjálmsson,

Mr.               R. Ryssdal,

Mr.               A. Bozer,

Mr.               W. J. Ganshof van der Meersch,

Sir               Gerald Fitzmaurice,

and also Mr. M.-A. Eissen, Registrar and Mr. J.F. Smyth, Deputy Registrar,

Having deliberated in private,

Decides as follows:


  1.   The Golder case was referred to the Court by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (hereinafter called "the Government"). The case has its origin in an application against the United Kingdom lodged with the European Commission of Human Rights (hereinafter called "the Commission") under Article 25 (art. 25) of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (hereinafter referred to as "the Convention"), by a United Kingdom citizen, Mr. Sidney Elmer Golder. The application was first submitted in 1969; it was supplemented in April 1970 and registered under no. 4451/70. The Commission’s report in the case, drawn up in accordance with Article 31 (art. 31) of the Convention, was transmitted to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on 5 July 1973.

  2.   The Government’s application, which was made under Article 48 (art. 48) of the Convention, was lodged with the registry of the Court on 27 September 1973 within the period of three months laid down in Articles 32 para. 1 and 47 (art. 32-1, art. 47). The purpose of the application is to submit the case for judgment by the Court. The Government therein express their disagreement with the opinion stated by the Commission in their report and with the Commission’s approach to the interpretation of the Convention.

  3.   On 4 October 1973, the Registrar received from the Secretary of the Commission twenty-five copies of their report.

  4.   On 9 October 1973, the then President of the Court drew by lot, in the presence of the Registrar, the names of five of the seven judges called upon to sit as members of the Chamber, Sir Humphrey Waldock, the elected judge of British nationality, and Mr. G. Balladore Pallieri, Vice-President of the Court, being ex officio members under Article 43 (art. 43) of the Convention and Rule 21 para. 3 (b) of the Rules of Court respectively. The five judges chosen were MM. R. Cassin, R. Rodenbourg, A. Favre, T. Vilhjálmsson and W. Ganshof van der Meersch, (Article 43 in fine of the Convention and Rule 21 para. 4) (art. 43). The President also drew by lot the names of substitute judges (Rule 2l para. 4).

    Mr. G. Balladore Pallieri assumed the office of President of the Chamber in accordance with Rule 21 para. 5.

  5.   The President of the Chamber ascertained, through the Registrar, the views of the Agent of the Government and of the Delegates of the Commission on the procedure to be followed. By Order of 12 October 1973, he decided that the Government should file a memorial within a time-limit expiring on 3l January 1974 and that the Delegates should be entitled to file a memorial in reply within two months of the receipt of the Government’s memorial. The President of the Chamber also instructed the Registrar to request the Delegates to communicate to the Court the main documents listed in the report. These documents were received at the registry on 17 October.

    The President later granted extensions of the times allowed, until 6 March 1974 for the Agent of the Government, and until 6 June and then 26 July for the Delegates (Orders of 21 January, 9 April and 5 June 1974). The Government’s memorial was received at the registry on 6 March 1974 and that of the Commission - with observations by the applicant’s counsel annexed - on 26 July.

  6.   The Chamber met in private on 7 May 1974. Sir Gerald Fitzmaurice, who had been elected a member of the Court in January 1974 in place of Sir Humphrey Waldock, took his seat in the Court as the elected judge of British nationality (Article 43 of the Convention and Rule 2 para. 3) (art. 43).

    On the same day the Chamber, "considering that the case raise(d) serious questions affecting the interpretation of the Convention", decided under Rule 48 to relinquish jurisdiction forthwith in favour of the plenary Court.

    The new President of the Court, Mr. Balladore Pallieri, assumed the office of President.

  7.   After consulting the Agent of the Government and the Delegates of the Commission, the President decided, by Order of 6 August 1974, that the oral hearings should open on 11 October.

  8.   The public hearings took place on 11 and 12 October 1974 in the Human Rights Building at Strasbourg.

    There appeared before the Court:

    - for the Government:

                 Mr. P. Fifoot, Legal Counsellor,

                                             Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Barrister-at-Law,

                                                           Agent and Counsel,

                 Sir Francis Vallat, K.C.M.G., Q.C., Professor of International Law,                            

                                             King’s College, London; formerly Legal Adviser to the              

                                             Foreign Office,

                 Mr. G. Slynn, Q.C., Recorder of Hereford,               Counsel,


                 Sir William Dale, K.C.M.G., formerly Legal Adviser

                                             to the Commonwealth Office,

                 Mr. R. M. Morris, Principal, Home Office,               Advisers;

    - for the Commission:

                 Mr. G. Sperduti,               Principal Delegate,

                 MM. T. Opsahl and K. Mangan,               Delegates, and

                 Mr. N. Tapp, Q.C., who had represented the applicant

                                             before the Commission, assisting the Delegates under              

                                             Rule 29 para. 1, second sentence.

    The Court heard the addresses and submissions of Mr. Fifoot, Sir Francis Vallat and Mr. Slynn for the Government and of Mr. Sperduti, Mr. Opsahl and Mr. Tapp for the Commission, as well as their replies to questions put by the Court and by several judges.

    At the hearings, the Government produced certain documents to the Court


  9.   The facts of the case may be summarised as follows.

  10. In 1965, Mr. Sidney Elmer Golder, a United Kingdom citizen born in 1923, was convicted in the United Kingdom of robbery with violence and was sentenced to fifteen years’ imprisonment. In 1969, Golder was serving his sentence in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight.

  11. On the evening of 24 October 1969, a serious disturbance occurred in a recreation area of the prison where Golder happened to be.

    On 25 October, a prison officer, Mr. Laird, who had taken part and been injured in quelling the disturbance, made a statement identifying his assailants, in the course of which he declared: "Frazer was screaming ... and Frape, Noonan and another prisoner whom I know by sight, I think his name is Golder ... were swinging vicious blows at me."

  12. On 26 October Golder, together with other prisoners suspected of having participated in the disturbance, was segregated from the main body of prisoners. On 28 and 30 October, Golder was interviewed by police officers. At the second of these interviews he was informed that it had been alleged that he had assaulted a prison officer; he was warned that "the facts would be reported in order that consideration could be given whether or not he would be prosecuted for assaulting a prison officer causing bodily harm".

  13. Golder wrote to his Member of Parliament on 25 October and 1 November, and to a Chief Constable on 4 November 1969, about the disturbance of 24 October and the ensuing hardships it had entailed for him; the prison governor stopped these letters since Golder had failed to raise the subject-matter thereof through the authorised channels beforehand.

  14. In a second statement, made on 5 November 1969, Laird qualified as follows what he had said earlier:

    "When I mentioned the prisoner Golder, I said ‘I think it was Golder’, who was present with Frazer, Frape and Noonan, when the three latter were attacking me.

    "If it was Golder and I certainly remember seeing him in the immediate group who were screaming abuse and generally making a nuisance of themselves, I am not certain that he made an attack on me.

    Later when Noonan and Frape grabbed me, Frazer was also present but I cannot remember who the other inmate was, but there were several there one of whom stood out in particular but I cannot put a name to him.

    On 7 November, another prison officer reported that:

    "... during the riot of that night I spent the majority of the time in the T.V. room with the prisoners who were not participating in the disturbance.

    740007, Golder was in this room with me and to the best of my knowledge took no part in the riot.

    His presence with me can be borne out by officer ... who observed us both from the outside."

    Golder was returned to his ordinary cell the same day.

    l5. Meanwhile, the prison authorities had been considering the various statements, and on 10 November prepared a list of charges which might be preferred against prisoners, including Golder, for offences against prison discipline. Entries relating thereto were made in Golder’s prison record. No such charge was eventually preferred against him and the entries in his prison record were marked "charges not proceeded with". Those entries were expunged from the prison record in 1971 during the examination of the...

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