Inhumane and Degrading Treatment and Punishment

Inhumane and Degrading Treatment and Punishment

Members of Doughty Street are committed to ensuring that individuals, at home and abroad, are able to live their lives free from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment which are absolute rights protected under Article 3 European Convention on Human Rights.

The mentally vulnerable are particularly susceptible to abuses of their Article 3 rights. We have been instrumental in developing this area of law for their protection. Members of chambers acted in MS v United Kingdom, in which the European Court of Human Rights found that the detention of a severely mentally ill man in a police cell without treatment for more than three days amounted to degrading treatment under Article 3. They also acted in ZH v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, in which the police were found to have failed to modify their restraint techniques when dealing with a severely autistic, epileptic 16-year-old, who became fixated with the water during a school visit to a swimming pool. When the police arrived, an officer touched ZH on his back, causing him to jump into the water, fully clothed. The police removed him from the pool, placed him on his back, and applied handcuffs and leg restraints. He was taken to a police van where he was placed alone in a cage. ZH suffered post traumatic stress disorder, which lasted until the trial more than two years later. The court found that the actions of the police amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment and breached Article 3.

IN FF v DPP we were successful in our arguments supporting a judicial review of a decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions that Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifi of Bahrain was protected from prosecution for allegations of torture by state immunity. The DPP eventually agreed with FF’s legal arguments and the decision that the Prince would or might be entitled to immunity was quashed in the High Court. This was an important case in its consideration of the development of the law after the case of Pinochet in relation to universal jurisdiction and torture.

Doughty Street’s asylum and refugee lawyers, and members of the extradition team, have also prevented individuals being returned to countries where they would face persecution, or a real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment.

Members of chambers fought tirelessly to prevent Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the US, taking his case all the way to the House of Lords and the European Court, before raising further challenges by way of judicial review against the Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Director of Public Prosecutions. In 2012, after seven years of legal challenges, the Home Secretary accepted that Mr McKinnon’s rights under Article 3 would be violated if he were to be extradited.

For more information about Doughty Street’s work in this area please see our immigration, extradition, police actions, mental health and community care team pages.