Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED October 16, 2003

Whether assessed singly or cumulatively, the investigations conducted into the death of a prisoner did not fulfil the United Kingdom's obligations under Art.2 European Convention on Human Rights. An independent public investigation into the death had to be held.Appeal from the decision of the Court of Appeal in relation to whether, in investigating a death in custody, the United Kingdom had complied with its obligations under Art.2 European Convention on Human Rights. The deceased ('X') was severely beaten by his cellmate in a young offender institution and, subsequently, died of brain damage. The Prison Service accepted responsibility for X's death and the cellmate was later convicted of murder. An internal inquiry was held by the Prison Service, in addition to a police investigation into whether the Prison Service or any of its employees should be prosecuted. A coroner's inquest was opened but was adjourned pending the cellmate's trial for murder and was never resumed. The Commission for Racial Equality ('CRE') conducted an investigation into racial discrimination in the Prison Service, which made specific reference to the circumstances of X's death. Its report was published in July 2003 and was not before the first instance court or the Court of Appeal. The secretary of state refused the request of X's family to establish an independent public inquiry into his death. In R v Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Imtiaz Amin (2001) EWHC Admin 719, Hooper J decided that the inquiries and investigations that had been conducted did not, singly or cumulatively, satisfy the investigative duty of the United Kingdom under Art.2 of the Convention. He ruled that the secretary of state's refusal to hold a public inquiry was a breach of Art.2 of the Convention. The Court of Appeal allowed the secretary of state's appeal and set aside Hooper J's order that an independent public investigation had to be held. The appellant challenged that decision and sought to restore Hooper J's order.HELD: (1) Whilst it was true that the European Court of Human Rights had not prescribed a single model of investigation to be applied in all cases, it had laid down minimum standards that had to be met, whatever form the investigation took (Jordan v United Kingdom (2001) 37 EHRR 52; Edwards v United Kingdom (2002) 35 EHRR 487). Hooper J had loyally applied those standards. The Court of Appeal had not. It had diluted them so as to sanction a process of inquiry inconsistent with domestic and Convention standards. (2) Whether assessed singly or cumulatively, the investigations conducted into X's death were much less satisfactory than the long and thorough investigation conducted by independent queen's counsel in the case of Edwards (supra). In X's case, there had been no inquest to discharge the State's investigative duty. The police investigation raised many unanswered questions and could not discharge the State's duty. Nor could the CRE investigation. The murder trial had involved little exploration, as could sometimes occur, of wider issues concerning X's death. The Prison Service's internal inquiry had been conducted by an official who had not enjoyed institutional or hierarchical independence. That inquiry had been conducted in private and the consequent report had not been published. Nor had X's family been able to play an effective part in the inquiry. (3) Hooper J had been right to reach the conclusion and to make the decision that he did and his order, therefore, had to be restored.Appeal allowed.

[2003] UKHL 51