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Any answers?


The April edition of Legal Action brings news that Hurst v UK has settled. As will be seen from the ECtHR’s Statement of Facts and Questions to the Parties Hurst involved a secure tenant who murdered a neighbour, the applicant’s son, during the course of possession proceedings. Ms Hurst brought proceedings in the domestic courts, which reached their conclusion in R (Hurst) v London Northern District Coroner [2007] UKHL 13; [2007] 2 AC 189. Those proceedings were concerned with the duties of a coroner, particularly where the death had occurred before the Human Rights Act 1998 had come into force.

Ms Hurst had also commenced civil proceedings against the police and the local authority, but these were discontinued on the advice of her legal representatives based on Brooks v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Van Colle v Chief Constable of Hertfordshire in the Court of Appeal – probably justifiably so, given the later decision of Mitchell v Glasgow CC [2009] UKHL 11; [2009] 1 AC 874, and the decision of the House of Lords in theVan Colle case.

Ms Hurst then went to Strasbourg. Back in 2009, the Fourth Section of the ECtHR posed the following questions to the parties:

1. Has the applicant complied with the requirements of Article 35 § 1 of the Convention having regard to the withdrawal of her civil proceedings in September 2007?

2. Has there been a failure to protect the life of the applicant’s son (by the police and/or by the local authority), as guaranteed by Article 2 of the Convention?

In particular, did the relevant public agents know or ought they to have known of the existence of a real and immediate risk to the applicant’s son’s life and did they fail to take measures within the scope of their powers which, judged reasonably, might have been expected to avoid that risk?

3. Have the procedural protections guaranteed by Article 2 of the Convention been complied with in the present case.

In particular, the criminal proceedings against Mr Reid apart, was there an adequate investigation into the circumstances leading up to and surrounding Troy Hurst’s death which would comply with the requirements of that Article. The parties are requested to comment, in this context, on civil proceedings for damages in negligence (against the police and the local authority) and/or disciplinary proceedings?

4. Was the applicant’s right of access to court for the determination of her civil rights disproportionately restricted having regard to the availability to her of any civil remedy in damages against the police and/or the local authority?

5. Has there been a violation of Article 13 as regards the rights guaranteed by Article 2 of the Convention having regard to any availability since the death of Troy Hurst of domestic civil proceedings by which the applicant could obtain damages in negligence as regards his death?

All interesting questions, to which we won’t get any answers, as the ECtHR has now struck the case out, because “the applicant wished to withdraw her application since the matter had been resolved.”

So my question to the assembled Nearly Legal readership is, does anyone have any (shareable) inside info on the terms of the settlement? In particular did the Government make any concessions in relation to the questions above?

Bonus question for students: Has the passing of the Human Rights Act 1998 changed the approach of the English judiciary to the interpretation of statutes?

chief is a barrister in the big city. he specialises in public law, landlord & tenant, football and rock 'n' roll (the last two are only when his clerks aren't watching). he sometimes pops by here, but not as often as he'd like. he will occasionally eschew capital letters. the reasons for this odd affectation are lost in the mists of time.


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