Hundreds of people have died; others have been starved, dehydrated and left in appalling conditions of indignity, witnessed by their loved ones. Surely this is what Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary, had in mind when he recently cautioned to need to “concentrate on real human rights”?
As Mr Francis makes clear, what happened at Staffordshire Hospital was a breach of basic rights to dignity and respect, and what is needed now are stronger lines of accountability and culture change which places patients at the heart of healthcare. Human rights speak to the fundamental standards that the Report says are needed to achieve this transformation in care.
Bristol City Council v C and others  EWHC 3748 (Fam) – read judgment
This was an application for a reporting restriction order arising out of care proceedings conducted before the Bristol Family Proceedings Court. The proceedings themselves were relatively straightforward but, in the course of the hearing, information came to light which gave rise to concerns of an “unusual nature”, which alerted the interest of the press.
After family court proceedings decided that child A was at risk of violence from her father, an interim care order was implemented and A was moved to foster carers. However some time afterwards the local authority received information from the police suggesting that someone living at the address of A’s foster carers had had access to child pornography. A also told social workers that another member of the foster household (also respondent to this action) had grabbed her around the throat. As a consequence police and social services visited the foster carers, informed them of the concerns about pornography, removed all computers from the house and moved A to another foster home. On the following day the male foster carer was found dead, having apparently committed suicide. Continue reading →
R (Khan) v Secretary Of State For Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs  EWHC 3728 (Admin) (21 December 2012) – Read judgment
In this unsuccessful application for permission to apply for judicial review, the Claimant sought to challenge the Defendant’s reported policy of permitting GCHQ employees to pass intelligence to the US for the purposes of drone strikes in Pakistan. The Claimant’s father was killed during such an attack in March 2011.
The Claimant alleged that by assisting US agents with drone strikes, GCHQ employees were at risk of becoming secondary parties to murder under the criminal law of England and Wales and of conduct ancillary to war crimes or crimes against humanity contrary to international law. The Claimant sought declaratory relief to that effect and also sought a declaration that the Defendant should publish a policy addressing the circumstances in which such intelligence could be lawfully disseminated. [paragraph 6]
Thirdly, in November 1 Crown Office Row hosted a mock trial on the topic of public inquiries and inquests at which a number of 1COR barristers, including me, spoke. The podcast of the event is now online and you find it here and also below the page break. You can also download the handout, which includes a number of very useful skeleton arguments for the mock trial, here.
Kent County Council, R (on the application of) v HM Coroner for the County of Kent (North-West District) & Ors  EWHC 2768 (Admin) – read judgment
The High Court – including the new Chief Coroner – has held that the enhanced investigative duty under Article 2, the right to life, is not engaged in an inquest into the death of a 14 year old boy, despite “many missed opportunities” for intervention by social services being identified.
Another sad case on when and how the enhanced investigative duty under Article 2 ECHR is engaged. EB, a troubled 14 year old, died of a methadone overdose in November 2009. He was known to the claimant’s social services department, who were the subject of criticism in a serious case review following his death. The review found that there had been “many missed opportunities” to intervene, but felt that: “It cannot be concluded that a different approach … would have prevented [EB]’s death, but there is a possibility that there may have been a different outcome.” The council have since apologised unreservedly to the family.
The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 has created the office of Chief Coroner, plucked at the very last minute from the Coalition’s ‘bonfire of the quangos’. On Friday, the first Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, delivered The Howard League for Penal Reform’s 2012 Parmoor Lecture.
Six weeks into his post, Judge Thornton presents a frank exposition of the challenges facing the system he now heads, sets out what he considers to be its purpose, and charts its remarkable genesis.
Coroners have, it seems, occupied for the best part of a millennium a peculiar pocket of public life, adapting their function and purpose over time in a manner not always understood by those working outside the system, or even by they themselves. From the Articles of Eyre to the 2009 Act, via Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart (the latter does not come out well), the Chief Coroner describes how ‘crowners’, as they were originally known, have evolved from lay magistrates or collectors of fines, to the judges they are today. Continue reading →
Public Inquiries and inquests have dominated the headlines recently, with members of One Crown Office Row appearing in many of them, including:
The Leveson Inquiry into the ethics of the press
The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry
The Baha Mousa Public Inquiry
The Al-Sweady Public Inquiry
The 7/7 Inquests
The Victoria Climbié Inquiry.
On 8 November 2012 One Crown Office Row will be hosting a mock trial and panel discussion on this important subject. The event will draw on the latest case law concerning the scope of Article 2 investigations, the grounds for a public inquiry, and the test for re-opening inquests.
The speakers will be Neil Garnham QC, Jeremy Hyam, Richard Mumford, Caroline Cross, Adam Wagner and Matthew Hill .
There are still a few places remaining to attend this event. If you are currently practising within the field of public and administrative law and/or inquests and would like to attend please contact Charlotte Barrow, Marketing Executive at One Crown Office Row (firstname.lastname@example.org) stating your name and organisation. Places will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.
CPD has been applied for and debate, drinks and snacks will of course follow.
Communist prisoners held during the Malaya emergency Photograph: Jack Birns/Time & Life Pictures
Chong Nyok Keyu and ors v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and another  EWHC 2445 (Admin), read judgment
Although the High Court has rejected an attempt to force the Government to hold a public inquiry into an alleged massacre of unarmed civilians by British troops in 1948, the case represents a further example of the use of the Courts to redress historical grievances.
There are two German words for dealing with the traumatic recent past, neither of which has a direct equivalent in English. This linguistic quirk reflects history and national self-identity. The defeats of the Kaiser, the Nazis and the GDR Communists led to national introspection in Germany, whereas the United Kingdom, on the winning side in each of the those three struggles, evaded such soul-searching. The post-war decline was relatively gentle and easy to fit in to the national myth of historical continuity. An Empire absent-mindedly acquired was considered to be the subject of an orderly and benevolent liquidation, with lasting benefits of railways and the rule of law left to the inheritors.
R (Medihani) v. HM Coroner for Inner South District of Greater London  EWHC 1104 (Admin) – Read judgment.
In what circumstances is a criminal trial not sufficient to discharge the State’s duties under Article 2, the right to life, towards a victim of murder? The High Court held last week in this tragic case that a Coroner unlawfully and unreasonably decided not to resume an inquest into the death of a teenage girl where her killer had been ruled unfit to plead at the Old Bailey and handed an indefinite hospital order.
The right to life, protected by Article 2 of the ECHR, has been the subject of several major cases over the past few years, both in the UK courts and in Strasbourg, relating to the extent of the State’s duty to investigate someone’s death. In particular, the courts have emphasised and extended bit by bit the need for a proper examination of the circumstances of a death which occurs whilst a person is in custody, in a mental health institution or otherwise within the State’s care or control.
What – if anything – can a claimant do when she suspects that the domestic law is not only out of kilter with Strasbourg jurisprudence but is also denying her even an opportunity to bring a claim? Taking arms against a whole legal system may be an heroic ideal, but the mundane reality is a strike out under CPR rule 3.4 by a district judge in the County Court. It is a long way from there to the European Court of Human Rights.
This was the position in which Patricia Reynolds and her daughter Catherine King found themselves following the sad death of (respectively) their son and brother. David Reynolds suffered from schizophrenia. On 16 March 2005 he contacted his NHS Care Co-ordinator and told him that he was hearing voices telling him to kill himself. There were no beds available in the local psychiatric unit, so Mr Reynolds was placed in a Council run intensive support unit. His room was on the sixth floor and at about 10.30 that night Mr Reynolds broke his (non-reinforced) window and fell to his death. Continue reading →
65 responses to the Justice and Security Green Paper consultation, which proposes introducing “Closed Material Procedures” – secret trials – into civil courts, have been published on the official consultation website. According to the site there are potentially 25 more to come.
Whilst it is a good thing that the responses have been published at all, the low number of responses is a little depressing. In a country of over 60 million people, and given the proposals could amount to a significant erosion of open justice, 90 responses seems a little thin. Granted, many of the responses are from organisations or groups of individuals, such as the 57 Special Advocates who have called the proposals a “departure from the foundational principle of natural justice“. But the low number surely represents the fact that as yet the proposals have failed to capture the public imagination.
In my previous blog on the Supreme Court’s judgment in Rabone I discussed the central feature of the case, the extension of the operational duty on the state to protect specific individuals from threats to their life, including suicide. Here, I consider the other elements of the case that Melanie Rabone’s parents had to establish in order to succeed in their claim for damages under the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA”).
Existence of the operational duty in Melanie’s case
Having established that the operational duty could be applied in Melanie’s case, her parents then had to establish, on the facts, that it was – by showing that there was a “real and immediate” threat to her life from which she should have been protected. Ever since the notion of an operational duty was first enunciated in Osman v United Kingdom (2000) 29 EHRR 245, it has become something of a judicial mantra that the threshold for establishing a “real and immediate” threat was high (see for example Re Officer L UKHL 36, and Savage v South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust  AC 681  and ,). There are good reasons for not imposing the operational duty lightly, given the enormous pressures and complexities involved in running police, prison and mental health services for the community as a whole. However, an overly-stringent test risked making the operational duty an obligation that was more hypothetical than real.
A child learns early that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. Thankfully that principle does not apply to Government consultations and this is aptly demonstrated by a group of responses to the consultation into whether “closed material” (secret evidence) procedures should be extended to civil trials.
Of the responses that I have read, there is very little support for the proposals as they stand and, as journalist Joshua Rozenberg has pointed out, the most damning criticism has come from the very lawyers who are currently involved in “closed” proceedings.
If you are interested in the issue, the Joint Committee on Human Rights is hearing evidence on it today from two special advocates, including my co-editor Angus McCullough QC (see his post on the topic), as well as the current and former independent reviewers of terrorism legislation. The session begins at 2:20pm and can be watched live here.
As I did with the Bill of Rights Commission consultation, I asked people to send me their consultation responses. What follows is a wholly unscientific summary of the ones I received:
Associated Newspapers Ltd, R (on the application of) v Rt Hon Lord Justice Leveson  EWHC 57 – Read judgment
On Friday 20 January 2012 the Administrative Court dismissed the second application for judicial review of the Leveson Inquiry. The Court dismissed an application by Associated Newspapers (supported by the Daily Telegraph) to quash the decision of the Chairman, Lord Justice Leveson. decision to admit evidence from journalists who wish to remain anonymous on the ground that they fear career blight if they identify themselves.
Lord Justice Toulson commented “that the issues being investigated by the Inquiry affect the population as a whole. I would be very reluctant to place any fetter on the Chairman pursuing his terms of reference as widely and deeply as he considers necessary”.
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