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Right to Life

When a death occurs because of failures by State agencies, the family deserves justice, redress and compensation. The European Convention on Human Rights 1950, brought into English law by the Human Rights Act 1998, guarantees the most fundamental human rights, including the right to life (Article 2).

If your spouse, partner or other family member has died whilst in prison, police custody, immigration detention, a mental health institution or while serving in the armed forces, then we may be able to assist you with a claim for a breach of Article 2. Our sympathetic and experienced lawyers are committed to providing clear legal advice to you, as well as energetic and determined advocacy on your behalf.

Our Civil Liberties team is ranked as one of the top 10 firms in the UK for this area of law in Chambers UK 2016 and the Legal 500 2015. We are specialists in successfully bringing complex and high profile legal claims where the right to life has been breached.

We use our extensive knowledge of human rights law to hold authorities to account, secure the maximum possible compensation, and gain admissions of wrong-doing so changes can be made to avoid others losing their lives in the same way. In addition, we have successfully used human rights law to challenge Coroners’ decisions where inquests have failed to properly investigate a death.

Our cases

Our team has many years of experience in winning cases for families where a relative has died in police custody or prison. For example:

  • In one case, we obtained compensation for the family of a teenager who died in prison after proper precautions to protect him from taking his own life were not put in place. In another case, we obtained compensation for the son of a man who died of natural causes in police custody where it was found that police failed to deal with his health needs.
  • We have also represented families in a series of high profile and complex cases where British soldiers have died on active service abroad. Through a sequence of hard fought test cases, on behalf of our clients, we have successfully established the right of soldiers to the protection of the Human Rights Act while on tour.
  • We have won compensation and redress for clients in other cases where failures of State agencies have directly contributed to the death of a family member. This includes situations where a death was caused by an overdose and failures of medical care, and failures by police to protect vulnerable individuals from harassment.
  • Recently we have challenged the inquest verdict into the death of Private Jason Smith, who suffered fatal heatstroke while serving in Iraq in 2003, after a lack of disclosure by the Ministry of Defence. A subsequent inquest discovered missed opportunities to intervene in his worsening health. We secured significant damages and an apology for Catherine Smith, his mother.
  • We are currently pursuing claims relating to deaths at Colnbrook and Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centres, which centre on allegations of poor medical care, and we have ongoing cases involving deaths in prisons across the UK.
  • We regularly successfully represent families in cases where deaths are argued by the State to be self-inflicted but there are significant concerns over failings by prisons or other agencies to protect those in their care.
  • In a high-profile claim, we secured compensation for the family of Fiona Pilkington and Francesca Hardwick. Fiona took her own life and that of her daughter Francesca in October 2007 following years of anti-social harassment. Leicestershire Police acknowledged that they had failed to properly act on Fiona’s pleas for help.

We are active members of the INQUEST Lawyers Group which represents solicitors who specialise in legal advice for bereaved families following a death in custody.

Next steps

To find out more and to see if we can help you, please contact us on our free telephone number 0800 437 0080, or contact us via our website. All communications will be treated in confidence, even where you do not become our client. If we can take on your case, we will give you full details about costs, including advising you about the availability of legal aid and Conditional Fee or “no win, no fee” agreements.

If you want us to investigate a claim for you, it is important that you do not delay and you contact us as soon as possible. The law requires that cases are started at court within specific timescales. For most civil claims for compensation for a breach of human rights, the claim must be issued at court within 1 year, but to make sure evidence is collected and the case is properly prepared, the sooner you contact us, the better. However, if you think you might be out of time, don’t let this stop you from calling us – we will advise you if this is a problem, and if we can take your case on, we will fight to get your claim heard however long ago it was.

Our right to life specialists are part of our London based human rights team. We have almost four decades of experience helping clients from around the UK with a wide variety of legal matters. For expert legal advice use our contact form or call us on 0808 250 6017 today.