Right to Life
Article 2 European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to life and requires an investigation where a person dies in questionable circumstances at the hands of the State.
Throughout the last 25 years we have consistently represented the families of those who have died in prisons, police cells, after police contact, in healthcare or psychiatric settings, and in other suspicious circumstances. We have regularly challenged decisions by coroners through public law proceedings, brought civil claims for damages on behalf of the family members of those who have died and used judicial review to compel the setting up of public inquiries in appropriate cases.
A key area of our work has been in the development of the law relating to the nature of the investigation that the state must provide after a suspicious death.
In R (Amin) v. Secretary of State for the Home Department  1 AC 653, we represented the family of Zahid Mubarek, who had been murdered by his racist cell-mate in a young offenders’ institution. We helped the family to challenge the lack of proper investigation into Zahid’s death. The House of Lords held that when a person in custody dies, there must be a state investigation that has to meet certain minimum standards. These are that (1) the investigation must be independent; (2) the investigation must be effective; (3) the investigation must be reasonably prompt; (4) there must be a sufficient element of public scrutiny; and (5) the next-of-kin must be involved to an appropriate extent. These principles continue to be used by families to ensure that they discover as much as they possible about how their loved one has died, and that lessons are learnt for the future, when otherwise the truth may only be known to state authorities.
We represented the families of those bereaved by the 7/7 bombings, and argued in those proceedings that a coroner has no power to hear evidence behind closed doors. The Administrative Court agreed. When the government sought to introduce through legislation a power to conduct secret inquest hearings, from which families could be excluded, we worked with INQUEST to challenge the proposals and they were eventually dropped.
In the future we will continue to represent many of the families of those bereaved by the Hillsborough disaster, and work closely with INQUEST and the Inquest Lawyers Group to seek to preserve public funding for inquest work and improve coronial procedure.
For more information about Doughty Street’s work in this area please see our inquiries and inquests team page.