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March 17, 2016

Daniel v St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust [2016] EWHC 23 (QB)

In September 2011 a prison inmate died of a heart attack after suspected over-exercise in a prison gym. At the inquest, and subsequently when the case was heard at the High Court, the Claimants suggested the primary NHS trust within the prison and also the provider of ambulance services within the area had breached their Article 2 duty by failing to provide timely medical care. A preliminary question for the court was whether the Article 2 duty was engaged.

The court looked at the extent of the ‘operational duty’ referred to in Osman v UK and identified the following categories where the operational duty was engaged:

  1. Protection from attack;

  2. Detainees;

  3. Informal psychiatric patients at risk of suicide;

  4. Protection from risk created by state authorities.

Lang J then went on to consider a number of ECtHR decisions where a failure to provide adequate medical care to a detainee had engaged Article 2 on the basis of the state’s operational duty, before concluding that the duty applied not only to the detaining authority, but also to those public authorities who from time to time may have responsibility for the detainee.

The effect of the decision is that it is likely to assist practitioners in arguing in a given case that the Article 2 duty extends beyond the state entity with primary care of an individual and also engages other public authorities who may at any given time assume a duty of care in specific circumstances. In particular, the judgment makes clear that paramedics and ambulance services attending prisons will be within the scope of the Article 2 duty.  

Alexander West