Text:ICLR R (Antoniou) v Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust [2013] EWHC 3055 (Admin), [2013] MHLO 98

HUMAN RIGHTS — Life — State’s duty to investigate death — Patient committing suicide while detained in hospital under mental health provisions — Whether immediate and independent investigation into circumstances of death required prior to inquest — Human Rights Act 1998, s 6(1), Sch 1, Pt I, art 2

Regina (Antoniou) v Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust and others

[2013] EWHC 3055 (Admin)M; [2013] WLR (D) 379

DC: Aikens LJ, Mitting J: 10 October 2013

In order to fulfil its procedural obligations under article 2 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms the state was not obliged to conduct, prior to an inquest, an immediate and independent investigation into the circumstances of the death of a patient detained in hospital under section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

The Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division so held in dismissing a claim for judicial review by the claimant, Dr Michael Antoniou, in relation to the investigation arising out of the suicide of his wife, Jane Antoniou (“JA”), on 23 October 2010 while she was a patient detained at Northwick Park Hospital under section 3 of the 1983 Act. The hospital was part of the first defendant trust, the Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. The claimant sought a declaration, inter alia, that article 2 of the Convention obliged the state to conduct an immediate and independent investigation into the circumstances of the detained patient’s death, prior to an inquest. The Secretary of State for Health and NHS England were the second and third defendants.

AIKENS LJ, giving the judgment of the court, said that until the relevant provisions of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 came into force on 25 July 2013, when a person detained in hospital under the 1983 Act committed suicide or died as a direct result of self-harm, an “enhanced” inquest would take place (ie one conducted before a jury on an expanded basis leading to a narrative verdict) pursuant to the “procedural obligations” of the state created by article 2 of the Convention. No domestic authority required that, in order to fulfil the state’s procedural obligations under article 2, there had to be an independent investigation from the outset into the death of a patient who had been detained under the 1983 Act and who died while in the hospital’s care. Further, none of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights indicated that that was required when a member state had a procedural system for investigating deaths which included an inquest. On the facts, the investigation process, taken overall, was not in breach of the state’s article 2 obligations. Given all the circumstances , in particular the fact that there was a properly constituted and conducted inquest, there was no obligation under article 2 of the Convention to have, in addition, a separate independent investigation into the death of JA, either from the outset or from any time thereafter. Further, taken as a whole, the investigation process in the death of JA was independent, effective and prompt. It followed that the claim for judicial review would be dismissed.

Appearances: Paul Bowen QC (instructed by Bhatt Murphy Solicitors) for the claimant; Angus Moon QC (instructed by RadcliffeLeBrasseur Solicitors) for the first defendant trust; Ben Hooper (instructed by Treasury Solicitor) for the Secretary of State; Fenella Morris QC and Rose Grogan (instructed by Capsticks Solicitors LLP) for the third defendant.

Reported by: Ms Avneet K Baryan, Barrister.

© 2013. The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales.