Menson v United Kingdom: ECHR 6 May 2003

There had been a racist attack. The victim was set on fire and killed in the street by assailants. His relatives sought compensation. However the assailants were not agents of the state and they were duly prosecuted, convicted and sentenced. No blame attached to state authorities for the killing and no breach of the state’s investigative duty was found.
Held: While certain familiar principles were rehearsed, the complaint was held to be manifestly ill-founded.
‘The Court observes that the applicants have not laid any blame on the authorities of the respondent State for the actual death of Michael Menson; nor has it been suggested that the authorities knew or ought to have known that Michael Menson was at risk of physical violence at the hands of third parties and failed to take appropriate measures to safeguard him against that risk. The applicants’ case is therefore to be distinguished from cases involving the alleged use of lethal force either by agents of the State or by private parties with their collusion (see, for example, McCann v United Kingdom (1995) [21 EHRR 97]; Jordan v United Kingdom (2001) [37 EHRR 52]; Shanaghan v United Kingdom, (Application No 37715/97, BAILII: [2001] ECHR 330), judgment of 4 May 2001, ECHR 2001-III (extracts), or in which the factual circumstances imposed an obligation on the authorities to protect an individual’s life, for example where they have assumed responsibility for his welfare (see, for example, Edwards v United Kingdom (2002) [35 EHRR 487]), or where they knew or ought to have known that his life was at risk (see, for example, Osman v United Kingdom (1998) 29 EHRR 245 . . However, the absence of any direct state responsibility for the death of Michael Menson does not exclude the applicability of article 2. It recalls that by requiring a State to take appropriate steps to safeguard the lives of those within its jurisdiction (see LCB v United Kingdom (1998) 27 EHRR 212] para 36), article 2 para 1 imposes a duty on that state to secure the right to life by putting in place effective criminal law provisions to deter the commission of offences against the person, backed up by law enforcement machinery for the prevention, suppression and punishment of breaches of such provisions.
With reference to the facts of the instant case, the Court considers that this obligation requires by implication that there should be some form of effective official investigation when there is reason to believe that an individual has sustained life-threatening injuries in suspicious circumstances. The investigation must be capable of establishing the cause of the injuries and the identification of those responsible with a view to their punishment. Where death results, as in Michael Menson’s case, the investigation assumes even greater importance, having regard to the fact that the essential purpose of such an investigation is to secure the effective implementation of the domestic laws which protect the right to life.’


47916/99, [1998] ECHR 107, (2003) 37 EHRR CD 220, [2003] Inquest LR 146, [2003] Po LR 155




European Convention on Human Rights 2


Human Rights

Cited by:

CitedAmin, 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 . .
CitedD, 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 . .
CitedReynolds, Regina (on the Application of) v Independent Police Complaints Commission and Another CA 22-Oct-2008
The court was asked to consider whether the IPCC could investigate the circumstances leading to the arrest of a suspect who fell into a coma after being arrested for being drunk. The IPCC appealed, saying that it did not have jurisdiction to . .
CitedSmith, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Defence and Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner (Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening) SC 30-Jun-2010
The deceased soldier died of heat exhaustion whilst on active service in Iraq. It was said that he was owed a duty under human rights laws, and that any coroner’s inquest should be a fuller one to satisfy the state’s duty under Article 2.
CitedSecic v Croatia ECHR 31-May-2007
The applicant had been attacked and beaten by skinheads shouting racial abuse. He complained that as a Roma, the police had failed through race discrimination properly to investigate his complaint.
Held: The court repeated the statement that . .
CitedCommissioner of Police of The Metropolis v DSD and Another SC 21-Feb-2018
Two claimants had each been sexually assaulted by a later notorious, multiple rapist. Each had made complaints to police about their assaults but said that no effective steps had been taken to investigate the serious complaints.
Held: The . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Human Rights, Coroners

Updated: 08 June 2022; Ref: scu.186853