The biggest human rights stories of 2012 – Part 4 of 4

UKHRB 2012 year in reviewWelcome to the fourth and final instalment in the epic UK Human Rights Blog review of 2012. In this post, I will review for your reading pleasure the very recent past: October to December. If you need to catch up:

October (read all posts)

October was a very busy month indeed – here goes…

  • Who, where, when and how they died - Arguably, one of the most important but least understood developments for the legal system in the past decade or so has been the rise of the inquest, as slowly but steadily the coronial system for investigating deaths has been brought into the 21st (or at least the 20th century). One of the much-needed system reforms which made it through the budget cuts was the appointment of a chief coroner; find out what he is planning here: The 21st Century Coroner
  • Free expression and social media prosecutions - Did you recognise the picture of Liam Stacey in the image above? I included him because in my view, his 12-week prison sentence for posting a sick joke on his Facbeook profile was one of the most important human rights stories of the year: read why in my post or listen to me on Law in Action speaking about the issue.

November (read all posts

  • The report which everyone was waiting for - And which needs no introduction (unlike this one)…  The Leveson Report into the culture, practices and ethics of the press.

December (read all posts)

Remember December? You probably should as it ended four days ago. Anyway, here’s the final part of the roundup…

  • And finally - The issue which is likely to dominate the headlines again well before the year is up, gay marriage. The Government announced in December that contrary to what it had said previously, religious gay marriages would be allowed, except for under the Church of England, which would be ‘quadruple locked’ from performing them. Curiouser and curiouser. Read the Government’s consultation response  or my post (written before the quad-lock announcement): Allowing religious gay marriages will avoid human rights challenges

So that’s it. If you have made it this far, you get the satisfaction of knowing that you will score a perfect ten in the ‘2012 human rights news’ section of the next pub quiz you attend. Thanks again for following the blog and to all of our amazing writers who put their time and effort into making the blog happen. We will be (in fact, already are) back with all of the human rights news fit to print in 2013.

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5 thoughts on “The biggest human rights stories of 2012 – Part 4 of 4

  1. Dear Adam, i’m afraid to say that we are in disagreement in respect of your implication that the Coroner system has been subject to meaningful improvement, please see views expressed to the ECtHR (intitial approach for app form and barcodes) thus:

    “Deficiencies of the UK Coroner system:

    [19] Deficiencies in the Coroner system have been identified by the Shipman and Mid-Staffordshire Inquiries. Parts of “The Coroners & Justice Act c25 2009” were introduced to rectify some of the deficiencies of the Coronial System (Chapter 6 Governance – sections 36 to 40), which included sections for the Inspection of Coroner Systems and training of Coroners. These were subsequently repealed in 2012 together with the Abolition of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration. It is submitted that this repealing activity as conducted by the Secretary of State for Justice Mr Clark and the MoJ in respect of the above impinges on the State’s duty to provide high professional standards of healthcare. The lack of expertise in evaluating the true causes of death will clearly impinge on improving standards of health care.

    BACKGROUND

    In 2003, Dame Janet Smith in the 3rd Shipman Report criticised the Coronial System. Paragraphs 7.41 – 7.45 of her report refer to the lack of Regulation, Leadership, Guidance and Training. Section 39 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 which contained provisions for the inspection of the coroner system has not been brought into force and the Public Bodies Act 2011 abolished Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration (see schedule 1 of that Act). The Public Bodies (Abolition of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Court Administration and the Public Guardian Board) Order 2012 came into force on the 17th September, bringing the abolition into effect as well as consequentially repealing section 39 of the 2009 Act.

    SUMMARY

    In September 2012, legislation introduced in 2009 designed to improve the effectiveness of the Coroner system was repealed by SI 2401 without any system being in place to measure the effectiveness of the system, thus it can be deduced that no standards exist to determine the effectiveness of the Coroners system.

    Ms Bridget Prentice, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, in April 2010 stated, in a letter to Mr Andy Burnham (SoS for Health at the time) on my behalf (under the heading – “The Duty to Investigate an Individual Death”) that the system includes both the civil process and importantly the Inquest i.e. the Coronial system is in place to amongst other things, protect the Right to Life of Patients (Article 2). As there are major defects in the present Coroner’s system, Ms Prentice’s/the MoJ’s assertion that Inquests will protect NHS Patients from negligence is not valid. Other assertions made by Ms Prentice in above mentioned letter are equally invalid of which we submit that the MOJ and the other State bodies responsible for compliance with Article 2 have failed in this regard.

    It appears that the UK State does not want to provide a barometer of which evidences the true circumstances of deaths in the UK, of which this situation gives a false appraisal of the true standard amongst health professionals and whether the protection of patients lives are genuinely being catered for by them.

    Statistical information gathered from attached paper by Dr Gavin Ruddy estimate that only 1 in every 1000 medical negligent deaths are investigated by the courts each year (corners courts included). Considering the amount of negligent deaths attributed to the NHS each year we appear to have many deaths at the hands of the State being passed by in respect of an effective investigation of such deaths. The above demonstrates a clear breach in respect of the States positive obligations concerning Article 2 in respect of the above statistic hardly confirming a deterrent for State agents not to take life”

    Miguel Cubells and Family

    • The coalition government allowed only limited reforms to the Coroner’s Courts and system to actually be implemented despite Parliament legislating fro them in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The coalition prevaricated long over whether to even have a Chief Coroner but finally ended up with an appointment.

      The worst feature of all of this, to my mind, is that there is still no appeal from decisions of Coroners courts though highly expensive judicial review is available on points of law. Coroners remain the only inferior court from which there is no appeal. A similar system would not be tolerated in relation to Magistrates’ Courts.

      There is a very long way to go to get a modern and effective Coronial system in which the public has confdence.

      • OrbiterJ – Would you agree that the current Coroner process is in breach of the States positive Article 2 obligation to set up a framework of laws, proceedures, processes etc to practically protect life (as per Middleton at para 2). If you don’t agree then why don’t you agree?

  2. The Middleton case was concerned with the procedural duty under Article 2 – i.e. the duty on the State to hold an effective public investigation where it appears that one of the substantive obligations to protect life has been, or may have been, violated and it appears that agents of the State are, or may be, in some way implicated.

    The short verdicts delivered by Coroners Courts did not always meet the Art 2 obligation. However, the House of Lords read the Coroners Act (and Rules) in a way which enabled a Coroners Court to consider the circumstances of a death – e.g. was negligence involved etc.

    Middleton therefore made a major improvement but the case did not address every aspect of Coroners Courts.

    The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 took into account a considerable number of official reports and, in my own opinion, the Act was a good one and ought to have been fully implemented. Unfortunately, it got caught by the change of government in 2010 and the present government has not opted for the full palette of reforms. This is, very probably, because of the government’s desire to save money. Whether this leaves the Coronial system open to further challenge (whether on human rights grounds or otherwise) remains to be seen.

    There is no doubt that deaths in hospital must be properly investigated but it does not follow that, in every such case, Art 2 is engaged. I recommend a look at the case of R(Takoushis) v Inner London North Coroner [2005] EWCA Civ 1440 paras 70-109.

    Mr Cubells – I am aware that you are pursuing some form of case but I do not know the full details. Blogs – such as this and my own blog – do not offer legal advice. Indeed, they cannot do so because advice has to be specific to the precise circumstances of a case.

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