Judicial Review Judgement Has Wide Reaching Implications Given Ageing Prison Population

27 Jul, 2016

In an important judgment given the ageing prison population, Louis Browne from Exchange Chambers has secured an important judicial review success for the Ministry of Justice at the Royal Courts of Justice.

In the case of Zifforah Tyrrell and HM Senior Coroner County Durham and Darlington and The Ministry of Justice, the issue concerned the question of what article 2 (the right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights requires of a coroner when a serving prisoner dies of natural causes.

Michael Tyrrell, the claimant’s brother, died of pneumonia secondary to cancer. An investigation followed by the Office of the Prison and Probation Ombudsman which concluded that the death was a natural one. It looked at the quality of care which had been afforded to the deceased. The coroner, with the benefit of that report, obtained evidence from a number of treating doctors. The evidence pointed irresistibly to the conclusion that the death was from natural causes. In those circumstances the coroner determined that Article 2 ECHR did not impose upon him any obligation of further investigation.

In delivering its judicial review judgment, the court ruled that the coroner was right to conclude that the procedural obligation was not engaged. In those circumstances the claim for judicial review was dismissed.

Louis Browne said: “This is an important judgment particularly given the ageing prison population. Mr Tyrrells death was one which was clearly from natural causes. The cause of death was established and then confirmed on post-mortem examination. There was no indication of state involvement in his death of the sort that would trigger the procedural obligation under article 2 ECHR. Procedural obligation under article 2 where deaths occur in custody will, therefore, likely only arise where there is evidence of a violent or unnatural death or where there is some other question mark over the cause of death which points or may point to the possibility that the death was not from natural causes.”

(Source: Exchange Chambers)

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