He Was Too Violent And Unstable To Share A Cell

This is a case from 2002. Chris and Richard were put in a cell together. Richard was known to be violent and unstable. In a moment of lost control, Richard stamped and kicked Chris to death. The alarm system, which the staff knew to be dodgy, failed to protect him.

A private inquiry into Chris’ death suggested exactly what was expected: the two men should not have been in a cell together and the protective mechanisms should have been checked. However Chris’s parents were told there was no recourse in civil (non-criminal) law available to them and there was insufficient evidence to press criminal charges.

They took the prison to the European Court of Human Rights on the grounds that they failed to protect their son’s right to life. The Court agreed. By failing to protect Chris from Richard, the prison had breached Chris’ right to life.

The inquiry into Chris’s death was also found to be inadequate. As witnesses were not compelled to take part, critical people did not give their accounts. It was also not held in public. This element was important for two reasons. Firstly, the narrowness and privacy of the inquiry meant the parent’s right to an effective remedy was not respected. This case is key in showing that part of one’s right to life can also include a full inquiry into one’s death.

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

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