The prisoner was left with serious injury after attempting suicide in prison. He said that there was a human rights duty to hold an investigation into the circumstances leading up to this.
Held: There existed a similar duty to hold an enhanced investigation as exists after a suicide, though: ‘The initial investigation should be prompt, so that the facts are investigated while the evidence is still fresh and the material witnesses are readily available to be questioned. If all such witnesses give their evidence readily, the course of events appears clear and the circumstances in which the attempted suicide took place are shown to involve neither a possible defect in the system for preventing suicide nor a possible shortcoming on the part of any one in operating that system, the initial investigation may satisfy the requirement of efficacy without the need for further inquiry.’ In this case a further investigation had already been conducted and the appeal failed.
Lord Rodger of Earlsferry said: ‘Whenever a prisoner kills himself, it is at least possible, that the prison authorities, who are responsible for the prisoner, have failed, either in their obligation to take general measures to diminish the opportunities for prisoners to harm themselves, or in their operational obligation to try to prevent the particular prisoner from committing suicide. Given the closed nature of the prison world, without an independent investigation you might never know. So there must be an investigation of that kind to find out whether something did indeed go wrong. In this respect a suicide is like any other violent death in custody. In affirming the need for an effective form of investigation in a case involving the suicide of a man in police custody, the European court held that such an investigation should be held ‘when a resort to force has resulted in a person’s death’: Akdogdu v Turkey, para 52 ‘
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Lord Mance
 UKHL 68, Times 02-Dec-2008,  UKHRR 415,  2 All ER 521,  1 AC 588,  HRLR 9,  3 WLR 1325
England and Wales
Appeal from – JL, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department CA 24-Jul-2007
The court was asked to order a public enquiry into an attempted suicide in prison. Waller LJ was anxious about the task of defining suicide and near suicide: ‘I am clear that the simple fact of a death or serious injury of a person in custody gives . .
Cited – D, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department Admn 28-Apr-2005
D was undergoing trial for offences and was held in prison. He self-harmed repeatedly, and was recorded to require extra vigilance. He attempted to hang himself. Prison staff saved his life, but he was left paraplegic, and was then detained under . .
Cited – D, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Inquest Intervening) CA 28-Feb-2006
The respondent appealed from orders made as to the conduct of an investigation into an attempted suicide in prison. The judge had severely criticised the appellant’s treatment of the case.
Held: The appeal failed. The court recited the . .
Cited – McCann and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 6-Oct-1995
Wrong assumptions made by police officers in the killing of terrorists amounted to a human rights breach, despite the existence of danger to the public of an imminent attack. Article 2(1) is ‘one of the most fundamental provisions in the . .
Cited – Osman v The United Kingdom ECHR 28-Oct-1998
Police’s Complete Immunity was Too Wide
(Grand Chamber) A male teacher developed an obsession with a male pupil. He changed his name by deed poll to the pupil’s surname. He was required to teach at another school. The pupil’s family’s property was subjected to numerous acts of vandalism, . .
Cited – Sacker, Regina (on the Application of) v Coroner for the County of West Yorkshire HL 11-Mar-2004
The deceased committed suicide in prison. Her family sought to have added to the verdict the words ‘contributed by neglect’ and complained that the inquest had not provided a full and proper investigation of the death.
Held: The Act needed to . .
Cited – Jordan v United Kingdom; McKerr v United Kingdom; similar ECHR 4-May-2001
Proper Investigation of Deaths with Army or Police
Claims were made as regards deaths of alleged terrorists in clashes with the UK armed forces and police. In some cases the investigations necessary to justify the taking of life had been inadequate. Statements made to the inquiry as to the . .
Cited – Salman v Turkey ECHR 27-Jun-2000
Where someone dies or is injured whilst in custody the burden is on the state to provide a ‘satisfactory and convincing explanation’ of what has happened: ‘Persons in custody are in a vulnerable position and the authorities are under a duty to . .
Cited – Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis v Reeves (Joint Administratix of The Estate of Martin Lynch, Deceased) HL 11-Feb-1999
The deceased was a prisoner known to be at risk of committing suicide. Whilst in police custody he hanged himself in his prison cell. The Commissioner accepted that he was in breach of his duty of care to the deceased, but not that that breach was . .
Cited – Renolde v France ECHR 16-Oct-2008
A prisoner with mental health problems committed suicide during pre-trial detention. It was said that the state had infringed his article 2 right.
Held: The court noted the vulnerability of persons in custody, especially those who were . .
Cited – Tanribilir -c- Turquie ECHR 16-Nov-2000
The Court observed that, by its very nature, any deprivation of physical liberty carries with it a risk of suicide, against which the authorities must take general precautions. . .
Cited – Banks v United Kingdom ECHR 6-Feb-2007
The applicants complained of maltreatment by prison officers in breach of article 3. The matter had been investigated by the Crown Prosecution Service which had decided not to prosecute. Civil proceedings had been raised and settled. The applicants . .
Cited – Bazorkina v Russia ECHR 27-Jul-2006
Whoever is to carry out an investigation into a death in the custody of the state must be independent of the Ministry of Justice and in a position to set to work and complete the investigation reasonably quickly. . .
Cited – Keenan v The United Kingdom ECHR 3-Apr-2001
A young prisoner was known to be at risk of suicide, but nevertheless was not provided with adequate specialist medical supervision. He was punished for an offence, by way of segregation which further put him at risk.
Held: Inhuman and . .
Cited – Edwards v The United Kingdom ECHR 14-Mar-2002
The deceased, a young man of mixed race, had been placed in a cell with another prisoner who was known to be violent, racist, and mentally unstable. The staff knew that the panic button was defective. The deceased was murdered by his cell-mate. His . .
Cited – Ramsahai And Others v The Netherlands ECHR 10-Nov-2005
(Grand Chamber) The police had shot someone suspected of stealing a scooter. The family complained that they had not been given full access to the documents seen by the enquiry into his death.
Held: In order to be ‘effective’ as this . .
Cited – Pretty v The United Kingdom ECHR 29-Apr-2002
Right to Life Did Not include Right to Death
The applicant was paralysed and suffered a degenerative condition. She wanted her husband to be allowed to assist her suicide by accompanying her to Switzerland. English law would not excuse such behaviour. She argued that the right to die is not . .
Cited – Anguelova v Bulgaria ECHR 13-Jun-2002
A youth had died in police custody a few hours after being arrested for attempted theft.
Held: The court considered the investigation required: ‘There must be a sufficient element of public scrutiny of the investigation or its results to . .
Cited – Younger v The United Kingdom ECHR 7-Jan-2003
Prison authorities are not obliged to regard all prisoners as potential suicide risks. It was not shown that the police should have known that their prisoner was a suicide risk. . .
Cited – Akdogdu v Turkey ECHR 18-Oct-2005
ECHR Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) – No violation of Art. 2; Violation of Art. 3; Non-pecuniary damage – financial award; Costs and expenses partial award – domestic proceedings; Costs and expenses . .
Cited – Makaratzis v Greece ECHR 20-Dec-2004
Police had shot at the applicant’s car being driven through road blocks. The claimant was injured. After an administrative investigation seven police officers were prosecuted but acquitted.
Held: There had been striking omissions in the . .
Cited – Barbara Francis v The United Kingdom ECHR 8-Apr-2003
Cited – Tomlinson v Congleton Borough Council and others HL 31-Jul-2003
The claimant dived into a lake, severely injuring himself. The council appealed, arguing that it owed him no duty of care under the Act since he was a trespasser. It had placed warning signs to deter swimmers.
Held: The council’s appeal . .
Cited – Amin, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 16-Oct-2003
Prisoner’s death – need for full public enquiry
The deceased had been a young Asian prisoner. He was placed in a cell overnight with a prisoner known to be racist, extremely violent and mentally unstable. He was killed. The family sought an inquiry into the death.
Held: There had been a . .
Cited – Savage v South Essex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MIND intervening) HL 10-Dec-2008
The deceased had committed suicide on escaping from a mental hospital. The Trust appealed against a refusal to strike out the claim that that they had been negligent in having inadequate security.
Held: The Trust’s appeal failed. The fact that . .
Cited – Morrison v The Independent Police Complaints Commission and Others Admn 26-Oct-2009
The claimant made a complaint of a serious assault by the police, by the use of a Taser. The defendant had referred the complaint to the IPCC, who said that they should investigate it themselves. The claimant said that to accord with his human . .
Cited – Tyrrell v HM Senior Coroner County Durham and Darlington and Another Admn 26-Jul-2016
The court was aked what article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires of a coroner when a serving prisoner dies of natural causes.
Held: The reuest for judicial review failed. Mr Tyrrell’s death was, from the outset, one which . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.
Prisons, Human Rights
Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.278296