Smith, 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.
Held: The SSD’s appeal succeeded. ‘jurisdiction’ within the meaning of Article 1 was essentially territorial but extended in exceptional circumstances requiring special justification to other bases of jurisdiction. A soldier on active duty overseas was not within the jurisdiction of the UK so as to allow the operation of the Convention. The proposition asserted was a novel one, and the court should not extend a State’s duties beyond existing Strasbourg jurisprudence.
If the Convention had applied, an article 2 level coroner’s inquest would still not always be required. Baroness Hale, Lord Mance and Lord Kerr dissented in part.
Lord Collins said the exceptions to the finding of jurisdiction recognised by the Strasbourg court had consisted of (i) territorial jurisdiction by a state over the territory of another contracting state; (ii) extensions of territorial jurisdiction by analogy and (iii) commonsense extensions of the notion of jurisdiction to fit cases which plainly should be within the scope of the ECHR. This case was none of them.
Lord Mance said: ‘However, it is our duty to give effect to the domestically enacted Convention rights, while taking account of Strasbourg jurisprudence, although caution is particularly apposite where Strasbourg has decided a case directly in point or, perhaps, where there are mixed messages in the existing Strasbourg case law and, as a result, a real judicial choice to be made there about the scope or application of the Convention.’
Lord Hope of Craighead said: ‘Some situations in which the procedural obligation is triggered are now well recognised. The suicide of an individual while in the custody of the state is the prime example. It has been extended to the case where a prisoner attempted to commit suicide while in custody and suffered brain damage . This is because it has been recognised that prisoners as a class present a particular risk of suicide and because those who have custody of them, as agents of the state, are or may be in some way implicated. A Middleton inquest is required in all these cases, because it is at least possible that the prison authorities failed to take the steps to protect the prisoner’s life that the substantive right requires. As Lord Rodger of Earlsferry said in L’s case . . suicide is in this respect like any other violent death in custody. The procedural obligation extends to prisoners as a class irrespective of the particular circumstances in which the death occurred. The fact that they are under the care and control of the authorities by whom they are held gives rise to an automatic obligation to investigate the circumstances. The same is true of suicides committed by others subject to compulsory detention by a public authority, such as patients suffering from mental illness who have been detained under the Mental Health Acts . . This approach has the merit of clarity. Everyone knows from the outset that the inquest in these cases must follow the guidance that was given in Middleton’
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers stated the difference between a preliminary inquiry to establish whether an article 2 investigation was called for on the facts surrounding any death, and an article 2 investigation itself: ‘The duty to hold an article 2 investigation arises where there are grounds for suspecting that a death may involve breach by the State of one of the substantive obligations imposed by article 2. This raises the question of how the State is to identify that there are grounds for such suspicion. Any effective scheme for protecting the right to life must surely require a staged system of investigation of deaths, under which the first stage takes place automatically in relation to every death, whether or not there are grounds for suspecting that there is anything untoward about the death. Where the first stage shows that the death has not, or may not have, resulted from natural causes, there will be a requirement for a further stage or stages of the investigation. The requirement for an article 2 investigation will only arise if the preceding stage of the investigation discloses that there is a possibility that the State has not complied with a substantive article 2 obligation.’

Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers PSC, Lord Hope of Craighead DPSC, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Lord Mance, Lord Collins of Mapesbury, Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore
[2010] UKSC 29, [2010] WLR (D) 165, [2010] 3 WLR 223, [2010] 3 All ER 1067, [2011] 1 AC 1, [2010] Inquest LR 119, [2010] UKHRR 1020, [2010] HRLR 28, 29 BHRC 497
Bailii, WLRD, SC Summary, SC
Human Rights Act 1998, European Convention on Human Rights 1, Coroners and Justice Act 2009 5, Armed Forces Act 2006
England and Wales
CitedIssa And Others v Turkey ECHR 16-Nov-2004
Accountability for violation of the Convention rights and freedoms of persons in another state stems from the fact that article 1 of the Convention cannot be interpreted so as to allow a state party to perpetrate violations of the Convention on the . .
CitedBui van Thanh v United Kingdom ECHR 12-Mar-1990
The applicant, one of the ‘Vietnamese Boat People’, complained of the acts of government official in Hong Kong.
Held: The UK government had not extended the Convention to Hong Kong and the application failed. . .
CitedDrozd and Janousek v France and Spain ECHR 26-Jun-1992
The applicants complained of the unfairness of their trial in Andorra (which the Court held it had no jurisdiction to investigate) and of their detention in France, which was not found to violate article 5.
Held: Member states are obliged to . .
Appeal FromSecretary of State for Defence v Smith, Regina (on the Application of) CA 18-May-2009
The soldier had died of heatstroke after exercises in Iraq. The Minister appealed against a finding that the circumstances of his death required an investigation compliant with Article 2 human rights, saying that he was not subject to such . .
At First InstanceSmith v The Assistant Deputy Coroner for Oxfordshire Admn 11-Apr-2008
The claimant’s son had died of hyperthermia whilst serving in the army in Iraq. The parties requested a new inquisition after the coroner had rules that human rights law did not apply to servicemen serving outside Europe. Reports had been prepared . .
CitedSecretary of State for Defence v Al-Skeini and others (The Redress Trust Intervening) HL 13-Jun-2007
Complaints were made as to the deaths of six Iraqi civilians which were the result of actions by a member or members of the British armed forces in Basra. One of them, Mr Baha Mousa, had died as a result of severe maltreatment in a prison occupied . .
CitedOcalan v Turkey ECHR 12-May-2005
(Grand Chamber) – The applicant had been detained in Kenya. He had allowed himself to be taken by Kenyan officials to Nairobi airport in the belief that he was free to leave for a destination of his choice, but they took him to an aircraft in which . .
CitedOcalan v Turkey ECHR 12-Mar-2003
The applicant had led Kurdish separatists training and leading a gang of armed terrorists. Warrants for his arrest had been taken out in Turkey. He had lived for many years in Syria but then sought political asylum in Greece, Russia and Italy, none . .
CitedLoizidou v Turkey ECHR 23-Mar-1995
(Preliminary objections) The ECHR considered the situation in northern Cyprus when it was asked as to Turkey’s preliminary objections to admissibility: ‘although Article 1 sets limits on the reach of the Convention, the concept of ‘jurisdiction’ . .
CitedAl Skeini and Others, Regina (on the Application of) v Secretary of State for Defence and Another Admn 14-Dec-2004
Several dependants of persons killed in Iraq by British troops claimed damages.
Held: The court considered extensively the scope and applicability of Article 1 duties. In general an English court would have no jurisdiction over deaths abroad . .
CitedLoizidou v Turkey (Merits) ECHR 18-Dec-1996
The court was asked whether Turkey was answerable under the Convention for its acts in Northern Cyprus.
Held: It was unnecessary to determine whether Turkey actually exercised detailed control over the policies and actions of the authorities . .
CitedLoizidou v Turkey (Article 50) ECHR 28-Jul-1998
Hudoc Judgment (Just satisfaction) Pecuniary damage – financial award; Non-pecuniary damage – financial award; Costs and expenses award – Convention proceedings; Costs and expenses – claim rejected (State) . .
CitedBankovic v Belgium ECHR 12-Dec-2001
(Grand Chamber) Air strikes were carried out by NATO forces against radio and television facilities in Belgrade on 23 April 1999. The claims of five of the applicants arose out of the deaths of relatives in this raid. The sixth claimed on his own . .
CitedGentle, Regina (on the Application of) and Another v The Prime Minister and Another HL 9-Apr-2008
The appellants were mothers of two servicemen who had died whilst on active service in Iraq. They appealed refusal to grant a public inquiry. There had already been coroners inquests. They said that Article 2 had been infringed.
Held: The . .
CitedCarson and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 16-Mar-2010
(Grand Chamber) The court ruled admissible claims against the United Kingdom by 13 persons entitled to British State pensions for violation of article 14 of the Convention in combination with article 1 of the First Protocol. All the claimants had . .
CitedX v United Kingdom ECHR 1979
(Commission) The claimant sought admission of her complaint that being employed by the European Commission and resident in Belgium she had lost her right to vote. She contrasted her position with that of members of the armed forces and members of . .
CitedStephens v Malta (No. 1) ECHR 21-Apr-2009
The applicant, a British subject, had been arrested and detained in Spain under an arrest warrant issued by a court in Malta, but without competence to do so. The Court considered the issue of jurisdiction under article 1, saying: ‘the question to . .
CitedRegina on the Application of B and others v Secretary of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office CA 18-Oct-2004
The applicant children had been detained in immigration camps in Australia. They escaped and sought refuge in the British High Commission in Melbourne and claimed diplomatic asylum. They claimed in damages after being returned to the authorities in . .
CitedCyprus v Turkey ECHR 26-May-1975
ECHR (Commission) Article 24 of the Convention : Case referred to the Commission by a Contracting Party.
(a) The applicant Government, as constituted at and since the time of lodging the present . .
CitedGentilhomme, Schaff-Benhadji et Zerouki v France ECHR 14-May-2002
(French Text) In 1962 France and Algeria had signed a statement of principle on cultural co-operation which provided inter alia for French children residing in Algeria, including those having dual French and Algerian nationality under French law, to . .
CitedRegina v North Humberside and Scunthorpe Coroner ex parte Jamieson CA 27-Apr-1994
The deceased prisoner had hanged himself. He had been a known suicide risk, and his brother said that the authorities being so aware, the death resulted from their lack of care. The inquest heard in full the circumstannces leading up to the death, . .
CitedMcCann 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 . .
CitedMiddleton, Regina (on the Application of) v Coroner for the Western District of Somerset HL 11-Mar-2004
The deceased had committed suicide in prison. His family felt that the risk should have been known to the prison authorities, and that they had failed to guard against that risk. The coroner had requested an explanatory note from the jury.
CitedIsayeva, Yusupova And Bazayeva v Russia ECHR 24-Feb-2005
ECHR Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction). The court considered the duties of a signatory state under article 2 when taking substantial military actions against insurgents. . .
CitedAl-Saadoon and Mufdhi v The United Kingdom ECHR 2-Mar-2009
The claimant Iraqi nationals complained of their long term detention by British forces in Iraq, and of their transfer to the Iraqi authorities for trial for murder.
Held: The transfer was a breach of the applicants’ rights. The Iraqis had . .
CitedSacker, 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 . .
CitedNachova and Others v Bulgaria ECHR 6-Jul-2005
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Preliminary objection rejected (estoppel) ; Violation of Art. 2 with regard to deaths ; Violation of Art. 2 with regard to lack of effective investigation ; Not . .
CitedHurst, Regina (on the Application of) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v London Northern District Coroner HL 28-Mar-2007
The claimant’s son had been stabbed to death. She challenged the refusal of the coroner to continue with the inquest with a view to examining the responsibility of any of the police in having failed to protect him.
Held: The question amounted . .
CitedCaledonian Railway Co v Walker’s Trustees 1882
The court considered the extent of the duty to compensate for disturbance of a business when land was compulsorily purchased. Lord Selborne LC said: ‘The obstruction by the execution of the work, of a man’s direct access to his house or land, . .
CitedClose v Steel Company of Wales Ltd 1962
The pursuer sought damages after injury arising from the use of a tool for a purpose other than that for which it was intended to be used. Lord Denning quoted Sir Frederick Pollock to say: ‘Judicial authority belongs not to the exact words used in . .
CitedRamsahai 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 . .
CitedMedvedyev And Others v France ECHR 29-Mar-2010
(Grand Chamber) A Cambodian vessel, The Winner, trafficked drugs on the high seas (Cape Verde). It was detected and boarded by the French authorities, detaining the crew on board and took them on the vessel to France for trial. France was, but . .
CitedCalvin’s case 1606
Sir Edward Coke said: ‘If this alien becomes an enemy (as all alien friends may) then he is utterly disabled to maintain any action, or get anything within this realm.’ and ‘If a King comes to a kingdom by conquest, he may change and alter the laws . .
CitedAlcom Ltd v Republic of Colombia HL 1984
A bank account used to cover the day-to-day expenses of an Embassy, clearly served sovereign purposes and therefore was immune from enforcement measures. The Act of 1978 must be read against the background of customary international law current in . .
CitedBurmah Oil Company (Burma Trading) Limited v Lord Advocate HL 21-Apr-1964
The General Officer Commanding during the war of 1939 to 1945 ordered the appellants oil installations near Rangoon to be destroyed. The Japanese were advancing and the Government wished to deny them the resources. It was done on the day before the . .
CitedNissan v The Attorney General HL 11-Feb-1969
The plaintiff was a British subject with a hotel in Cyprus taken over by British troops on a peace-keeping mission. At first the men were there by agreement of the governments of Cyprus and the United Kingdom. Later they became part of a United . .
CitedJones v Ministry of Interior for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and others HL 14-Jun-2006
The claimants said that they had been tortured by Saudi police when arrested on false charges. They sought damages, and appealed against an order denying jurisdiction over the defendants. They said that the allegation of torture allowed an exception . .
CitedLittrell v Government of the United States of America and Another (No 2) CA 24-Nov-1993
The plaintiff claimed damages for personal injuries arising from medical treatment which he had received at a United States military hospital in the United Kingdom while a serving member of the United States Air Force.
Held: Section 16(2) . .
CitedBici and Bici v Ministry of Defence QBD 7-Apr-2004
Claimants sought damages for personal injuries incurred when, in Pristina, Kosovo and during a riot, British soldiers on a UN peacekeeping expedition fired on a car.
Held: The incidents occurred in the course of peace-keeping duties. It was . .
CitedHolland v Lampen-Wolfe HL 20-Jul-2000
The US established a base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, and provided educational services through its staff to staff families. The claimant a teacher employed at the base alleged that a report on her was defamatory. The defendant relied on state . .
CitedMulcahy v Ministry of Defence CA 21-Feb-1996
A soldier in the Artillery Regiment was serving in Saudi Arabia in the course of the Gulf war. He was injured when he was part of a team managing a Howitzer, which was firing live rounds into Iraq, and he was standing in front of the gun when it was . .
CitedEngel And Others v The Netherlands (1) ECHR 8-Jun-1976
The court was asked whether proceedings in a military court against soldiers for disciplinary offences involved criminal charges within the meaning of Article 6(1): ‘In this connection, it is first necessary to know whether the provision(s) defining . .
CitedSoering v The United Kingdom ECHR 7-Jul-1989
(Plenary Court) The applicant was held in prison in the UK, pending extradition to the US to face allegations of murder, for which he faced the risk of the death sentence, which would be unlawful in the UK. If extradited, a representation would be . .
CitedJordan 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 . .
CitedCarson and Others v The United Kingdom ECHR 4-Nov-2008
(Grand Chamber) Pensioners who had moved abroad complained that they had been excluded from the index-linked uprating of pensions given to pensioners living in England.
Held: This was not an infringement of their human rights. Differences in . .
CitedRegina v Special Adjudicator ex parte Ullah; Regina v Secretary of State for the Home Department HL 17-Jun-2004
The applicants had had their requests for asylum refused. They complained that if they were removed from the UK, their article 3 rights would be infringed. If they were returned to Pakistan or Vietnam they would be persecuted for their religious . .
CitedMarkovic and Others v Italy ECHR 14-Dec-2006
The applicants were relatives of persons who had been killed in the NATO air-raid on Belgrade in 1999. The raid was said to be an act of war in violation of international law. It had been launched from bases in Italy. The Corte de Cassazione had . .
CitedIlascu and Others v Moldova and Russia ECHR 8-Jul-2004
(Grand Chamber) The two contracting states disputed the status of secessionist territory in Moldova called the Moldovian Republic of Transdniestria, which had been set up in 1991-2 with the support of the Russian Federation. The question was whether . .
CitedLubbe (Suing As Administrator Of The Estate Of Rachel Jacoba Lubbe) and 4 Others v Cape plc and Related Appeals HL 22-Jun-2000
South African asbestosis victims suing in England submitted that to stay their proceedings in favour of the South African forum would violate their article 6 rights. A stay was refused on the non-Convention ground that, because of the lack of . .
CitedMenson 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 . .
CitedSalman 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 . .
CitedLondon and Quadrant Housing Trust v Weaver, Regina; Equality and Human Rights Commission intervening CA 18-Jun-2009
The Trust appealed against a finding that in terminating an assured tenancy transferred to it from a local authority, it had acted as a hybrid public authority and was subject to controls under the 1998 Act.
Held: (Rix LJ dissenting). The . .
CitedAssanidze v Georgia ECHR 8-Apr-2004
Hudoc Judgment (Merits and just satisfaction) Preliminary objection dismissed (non-exhaustion of domestic remedies) ; Violation of Art. 5-1 with regard to unlawfull detention ; Not necessary to examine Art. 5-1 . .
CitedErgi v Turkey ECHR 28-Jul-1998
A village girl was shot dead when she went out onto the veranda of her home after security forces had been engaged in an ambush of PKK members close to the village where she lived. Nobody asked her family about the circumstances of the shooting, and . .
CitedSavage 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 . .
CitedByrzykowski v Poland ECHR 27-Jun-2006
. .
CitedTakoushis, Regina (on the Application of) v HM Coroner for Inner North London and others CA 30-Nov-2005
Relatives sought judicial review of the coroner’s decision not to allow a jury, and against allowance of an expert witness. The deceased had been a mental patient but had been arrested with a view to being hospitalised. He was taken first to the . .
CitedAkdogdu 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 by:
CitedZagorski and Baze, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Others Admn 29-Nov-2010
The claimants, in the US awaiting execution for murders, challenged the permitting by the defendant for export of the chemical Sodium Thipental which would be used for their execution. The respondent said that its use in general anaesthesia practice . .
CitedMcCaughey and Another, Re Application forJudicial Review SC 18-May-2011
The claimants sought a fuller inquest into deaths at the hands of the British Army in 1990 in Northern Ireland. On opening the inquest, the coroner had declined to undertake to hold a hearing compliant with article 2, and it had not made progress. . .
CitedSmith and Others v Ministry of Defence QBD 30-Jun-2011
Claims were made after the deaths of British troops on active service in Iraq. In one case the deaths were from detonations of improvised explosive devices, and on others as a result of friendly fire. It was said that there had been a foreseeable . .
CitedAmbrose v Harris, Procurator Fiscal, Oban, etc SC 6-Oct-2011
(Scotland) The appellant had variously been convicted in reliance on evidence gathered at different stages before arrest, but in each case without being informed of any right to see a solicitor. The court was asked, as a devolution issue, at what . .
CitedSmith and Others v The Ministry of Defence SC 19-Jun-2013
The claimants were PRs of men who had died or were severely injured on active duty in Iraq being variously fired at by mistake by other coalition forces, or dying in vehicles attacked by roadside bombs. Appeals were heard against a finding that the . .
CitedLong, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Defence Admn 15-Jul-2014
The claimant’s son had been one of six soldiers of the Royal Military police to have been murdered by an armed mob attacking a police station in Iraq in 2003. The said that their deaths had not been properly or sufficiently investigated. The corone . .
CitedBirks, Regina (On the Application of) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis Admn 25-Sep-2014
The claimant police officer sought judicial review of a decision to continue his suspension. He had been investigated and cleared after a death in custody. He sought to join the Church of England Ministry and was offered a post. He was re-assured . .
CitedLetts, Regina (on The Application of) v The Lord Chancellor and Another Admn 20-Feb-2015
Application for judicial review concerning the criteria applied by the Legal Aid Agency to determine whether relatives of a deceased should be granted legal aid for representation at an inquest into a death which has arisen in circumstances which . .
CitedKennedy v The Charity Commission SC 26-Mar-2014
The claimant journalist sought disclosure of papers acquired by the respondent in its conduct of enquiries into the charitable Mariam appeal. The Commission referred to an absolute exemption under section 32(2) of the 2000 Act, saying that the . .
CitedSandiford, Regina (on The Application of) v Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs CA 22-May-2013
The appellant, a British national and European citizen was in prison in Bali convicted of a criminal charge for which she might face the death penalty. Having insufficient funds she sought legal assistance from the respondent for hr appeal, and now . .
CitedSandiford, Regina (on The Application of) v The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs SC 16-Jul-2014
The appellant a British Citizen awaited execution in Singapore after conviction on a drugs charge. The only way she might get legal help for a further appeal would be if she was given legal aid by the respondent. She sought assistance both on Human . .
CitedTyrrell 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 . .
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.

Armed Forces, Human Rights, Coroners, Constitutional

Leading Case

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.420019