The Right to Life
The HRLA’s Student Seminar Series Commences with a talk on the Right to Life at Church Court Chambers
On Wednesday evening the Human Rights Lawyers’ Association’s Student Committee held part one of its Student Seminar Series which concerned Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The speakers at this seminar were Professor Bill Bowring of Birkbeck College and Field Court Chambers, Mr Robert Weir QC of Devereux Chambers and Ms Jenni Richards QC of 39 Essex Street Chambers. The three distinguished human rights practitioners addressed a full-house at this event hosted by Church Court Chambers in the Temple.
Michael Polak of the HRLA and a pupil at Church Court Chambers stated that the idea behind the seminar was to “provide students with a unique opportunity to engage with leading human rights practitioners and to learn about the practical application of Article 2 and the developing case law in this area”.
First to speak was Professor Bill Bowring, a well-known human rights expert, especially in cases involving the Russian Federation, ex-Soviet states and Turkey. He discussed the State’s negative Article 2 duty not to take life. He stated that the “absolutely necessary” standard in Article 2 is stricter than the “necessary in a democratic society” standard in Articles 8-11. The burden of proof is on the applicant and the standard is similar (but not quite as strict) as the standard applied in domestic criminal proceedings. However, if the applicant is held in custody/detained, the burden of proof shifts to the state as stated in Aktas v Turkey in which he represented the applicant.
Following this, Mr Robert Weir QC, a personal injury and clinical negligence specialist spoke about Article 2 in respect of his case, Smith v Ministry of Defence which related to the United Kingdom’s breach of its duty to a soldier by sending him out in a Land Rover rather than in a more heavily armoured vehicle. In Smith, the Supreme Court held that the families of soldiers killed in Iraq could pursue damages against the government for breach of their Article 2 duty.
The final speaker was Ms Jenni Richards QC, an expert in the human rights area surrounding mental health, prison law, and immigration & asylum. She set out the issues around Article 2 in relation to the State’s duty to civilians, in particular to those in hospitals, in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Rabone v Penine Care NHS Trust. In this case, Ms Richards QC successfully argued that the defendant NHS trust owed an operational duty to the deceased under Article 2 to take reasonable steps to protect a voluntary psychiatric patient from the real and immediate risk of suicide.
The Seminar Series will continue with a seminar on Article 3 in May. Details of this and how to become a member of the Association are available at www.hrla.org.uk