The Supreme Court has held that there are limits to the obligation upon the state under Article 2 European Convention on Human Rights to investigate the death of those subject to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
R (on the application of Maguire) v His Majesty's Senior Coroner for Blackpool & Fylde and another
The Supreme Court’s decision in Maguire contains useful guidance for inquest practitioners, healthcare providers and commissioners concerning when an inquest into the death of a person who lacks capacity at a care home will engage Article 2 ECHR.
Whether the death of a vulnerable woman who was deprived of her liberty engaged the state’s obligation to protect life under Article 2 ECHR, therefore requiring an inquest jury to make findings regarding the circumstances by which the death occurred.
The case is concerned with the conduct of an inquest into the death of Jacqueline Maguire (Jacquie), who died in hospital on 22 February 2017 and the impact of Article 2 ECHR which concerns the right to life.
Jacquie, who had Downs Syndrome, lived in a care home and was subject to a standard authorisation for deprivation of liberty made under the Mental Capacity Act 2005. She became unwell and died after refusing to be taken to hospital. A post-mortem recorded that her cause of death was pneumonia and a perforated gastric ulcer leading to peritonitis.
An inquest into Jacquie’s death was held on 3 August 2017. The specific issue at the inquest was whether, in the circumstances surrounding Jacquie’s death, the coroner was required to direct the jury to return an expanded verdict in accordance with section 5(2) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
The coroner found that an expanded verdict was not required; accordingly, he directed the jury to give a standard verdict. Mrs Muriel Maguire, Jackie's mother, subsequently brought a judicial review claim challenging the coroner's decision. The High Court dismissed Mrs Maguire's claim. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. You can read our blog on these decisions here.
Mrs Maguire appealed to the Supreme Court and judgment was handed down on 21 June 2023.
Supreme Court decision
The court unanimously dismissed the appeal.
It found that there had been no arguable systemic failure by the care home or the healthcare providers, and no arguable breach of their operational duty to protect life, such as to trigger the state's enhanced procedural obligation to investigate under Article 2 ECHR 2 and provide an expanded verdict.
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