Human Rights: Judicial Protection in the United Kingdom

Conor Gearty writes:

In January 1999, Colin Middleton hanged himself in prison. He’d been in custody since 1982, when he was convicted – aged 14 – of murdering his 18-month-old niece. While in prison, he had harmed himself seriously, written to the governor about his mental illness, and spoken about suicide to other inmates. On the day before his death he didn’t leave his cell, even for meals, and placed a rug over the inspection port. At his inquest the jury tried to add to its verdict the opinion that the prison service had failed in its duty to Middleton, detailing why it had come to this conclusion. When the coroner refused to include the jury’s note in his final ruling, Middleton’s mother began a campaign to secure a formal public determination that the prison service was responsible for her son’s death. The obstacle she faced was the clear wording of the Coroners Act 1988.

(LRB 11 March 2010)