August 22nd, 2012
09:54 PM ET

Embarrassing pics could harm a soldier’s career several ways

Britain’s Prince Harry has a number of groups interested in how he conducts his private life, not the least of which is his employer, the British Army.

A spokesman for the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the ministry wouldn’t comment on pictures showing Harry third in line to the British throne and an Army captain who has served in Afghanistan naked while on vacation in Las Vegas.

He may be relieved that the incident is being portrayed in some circles as an unfortunate breach of his trust.

Although there’s no British military reaction, the incident did get us to wondering how much trouble a potentially embarrassing even if not illegal photo or video would present for a U.S. service member.

Depending on the specifics, the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice could pose a number of difficulties for Americans in uniform, said Victor Hansen, a retired Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer and a professor at New England School of Law, Boston.

For officers, the code’s Article 133 allows military trial and punishment for “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.” For enlisted members, Article 134 allows the same action for conduct prejudicial to “good order and discipline in the armed forces” and “conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”

Commanders have wide discretion, and oftentimes cases aren’t referred to courts-martial. Commanders often instead give reprimands or administrative sanctions, Hansen said.

A wide variety of cases - including accusations of dishonesty, officers gambling with enlisted soldiers, writing bounced checks - have been prosecuted. And even if an officer’s conduct is just being naked in a photo or video, commanders could deem the behavior to be unbecoming an officer or conclude the behavior “causes someone to question that officer’s fitness” for leadership.  That could lead to a court-martial, Hansen said.

“There’s this phrase that’s repeated often in the military: ‘You’re a soldier 24 hours a day, seven days a week.’ With respect to officers in particular, given the higher expectations that are on them, the reality is that you’re kind of on notice through this statute,” Hansen said. “You have to be circumspect in your behavior at all times. If you’re not and someone catches you in a down moment, that can have significant consequences.”

Maximum punishment for conviction under Article 133 is dismissal from service and incarceration. Regardless of sentence, the practical reality for guilty officers is that his or career is over, Hansen said.

Outside of Articles 133 and 134, service members also have to abide by rules prohibiting sexual activity in public or in the presence of a third party, Hansen said. Whether that applies to naked photos depends on a commander’s interpretation of the event, Hansen said.

Hansen didn’t recall specific cases involving prosecution for being in naked images, outside of one involving a service member who allegedly acted in a pornographic movie.

As for Prince Harry, there was little to suggest that his incident would cause much of a lasting stir in his country, Army or otherwise.

“Most people in Britain that I’ve spoken to think it’s hilarious. The palace will pretend to be outraged. And I suspect that he will be asked to perform his new expert sport of strip billiards at the Christmas party for the royal family,” Piers Morgan, host of CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” and a former British newspaper editor, said Wednesday.

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Filed under: Military • United Kingdom
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. The One Who Knows

    There is one point desperately being missed: it could have been the Queen spotted bumping uglies in Vegas.

    August 27, 2012 at 9:15 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. TAK

    "It's good to be the king."
    -Mel Brookes

    Or in this case, the prince.

    August 27, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • John in WNY

      You good Sir, or Madam, win the comment of the day for that quote!

      September 11, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. T-10

    Lots of discussion on possible UCMJ actions for US servicemen here, but the real consequences are the (frequently) lackluster fitness reports or simply not being selected for those tasks that prepare you for positions of increased responsibility. Officer or enlisted, it doesn't take much to ease you to the sidelines while your peers take the lead. Being damned with faint praise is all it takes...after 10-15 years, it becomes plain that you've topped out.

    August 28, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. MICHAEL BLENCOWE

    He's not the first & he won't be the last last, leave the guy alone. Try to find the person (sleeze bag) who sold the pictures expose them for what they are worth.

    August 29, 2012 at 4:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Michael

      If this was a case of a soldier blowing off steam, we would never have heard of it. The reality however is this guy is the 3rd in line for the British throne. He's NOT just a soldier. I don't have a problem with him "blowing off steam." However, I find it unfathomable that anyone could see the issue as a "breach of trust." He took a bunch of people he didn't know back to his suite and stripped in front of them. At the very least, that's naive. At most, it was just plain stupid.

      September 8, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. MJTaylor

    Do articles 133 and 134 become null and void on TDY?

    August 30, 2012 at 7:17 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deborah

      No I'm afraid "what goes TDY doesn't stay TDY"

      September 4, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  6. David

    Nice bum, Harry. Much better than a hairy bum. ha ha.

    September 3, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Catherine

    Leave Harry alone. You find me one soldier officer or enlisted who hasn't blown off steam before a deployment...you won't because they don't exist. Find the jerk who took and sold the photos and go after him. He's the one who is a menace to good military order"

    September 7, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kiwigurl

      so true he invaded their privacy peeping on them have him charged as a peeping tom. He deserves it!

      September 14, 2012 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. Derek

    Long live the Prince. If Piers Morgan is correct and behind the scenes, the Palace takes it in stride, more power to him.

    September 8, 2012 at 4:40 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Alex

    I think if the country they serve is a evil theocracy which thinks nudity is worst crime ever then being expelled from that army is a badge of honor. Their job is to protect the freedom, not a chirstianofascist thecracy with their stupid religious taboos.

    September 10, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Private Affairs Are No Business Of Anyone Else

    British soldier or not, people are human and people were born in their birthday suit. There can be nothing so terrible about the beautiful nude human body except perhaps to someone from five centuries ago and their way of thinking. Even nudists are considered to be normal-behaving human beings. Therefore, to try to make more of this than it is is ludicrous! Prince Harry is young, was not at a British or other military facility at the time, and thank goodness He Has A Life! What's your excuse?!

    September 12, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kiwigurl

      exactly well said.

      September 14, 2012 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  11. Kiwigurl

    Prosecute the photographer he's nothing more than a peeping tom.......What people (royals and officers) included do in their own time is their own business. They are normal human beings like the rest of us.......It's a huge invasion of privacy, prosecute him to the fullest i say!!

    September 14, 2012 at 7:19 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Judge Can Suck Deez!

    The Judge can SLAM DEEZ! No wonder America is falling apart becuase we are not allowed to kill or put terrorist on trials. Remember the bad guys and gals always have more rights than the good people.

    September 16, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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