ECHR Article 2
Failure to establish the responsibility of the administrative authorities for the death of a thirteen-year old boy in a public place: violation
Facts – In June 2005 the applicants’ thirteen-year old son died from injuries sustained when part of a balcony broke off from a building and fell on him while he was out playing. In September 2006 the applicant made a civil claim for non-pecuniary damage in criminal proceedings that had been instituted as a result of the accident. The prosecutor established that the city municipality had known since February 2005 that the building was in a poor state of repair and two municipal officials were indicted for failing to perform their duties. However, because the municipality was undergoing administrative changes entailing a reallocation of the duties and responsibilities, it emerged that there was no one with specific responsibility for derelict and abandoned buildings and in May 2010, after the investigation had been discontinued and re-opened several times, the charges against the two officials were dropped. Following an appeal by the applicant, the regional court upheld the decision to discontinue the criminal proceedings under the statute of limitations.
Law – Article 2: According to the Court’s case-law, the State’s obligation to protect the right to life must also involve the taking of reasonable measures to ensure the safety of individuals in public places and, in the event of serious injury or death, to require an effective and independent judicial system to be set up to secure legal means capable of establishing the facts, holding accountable those at fault and providing appropriate redress to the victim. Therefore, in cases involving non-intentional infringements of the right to life, the aforementioned positive obligations required States to adopt regulations for the protection of people’s safety in public spaces and to ensure the effective functioning of that regulatory framework. In that connection, the Court noted that the prosecutor had established that despite knowing the condition of the building the municipality had not complied with its legal duty to care for derelict buildings. On-going administrative reform could not justify inaction on the part of the authorities.
Further, although the national authorities had promptly opened a criminal investigation, the investigating officers had not acted with due diligence when collecting evidence, and had ignored possibilities of identifying those accountable, for example by bringing charges against the managers concerned. In conclusion, the criminal investigation had not been thorough and the domestic authorities had failed to display due diligence in protecting the applicant’s son’s right to life. Moreover, the legal system as a whole, faced with an arguable case of negligence causing death, had failed to provide an adequate and timely response consonant with Lithuania’s obligations under Article 2 of the Convention.
Conclusion: violation (unanimously).
Article 41: EUR 20,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage; EUR 8,135 in respect of pecuniary damage.
Human Rights, Police
Updated: 18 November 2021; Ref: scu.514304