By Mr. David Bong, Lecturer, Faculty of Law
In the case of R (on the application of Maguire) v Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde (2019), the English Divisional Court (Administrative Court) decided that the Coroner’s decision was correct and without error. He had decided that a jury could not have safely found that Jacqueline Maguire had died due to any actions or omissions by the medical and public healthcare providers and thus requiring the state to be held responsible under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights 1950 (ECHR 1950).
According to the law from the cases of Osman v UK (1998), Mitchell v Glasgow City Council (2009) and Rabone v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust (2012), in order for a breach of Article 2 to arise, the failure must demonstrate a systemic dysfunction arising from regulatory failure of the medical or healthcare providers of the state. This is the positive obligation or operational duty of the state authorities to always take preventive operational measures to protect an individual whose life is at risk from criminal acts.
However, if such systemic dysfunction arising from regulatory failure is absent, the state may still be in breach of Article 2 if it has assumed responsibility and has failed to ensure the individual’s welfare or safety, thus resulting in the individual’s death.
The case law is clear that in the absence of either systemic dysfunction arising from a regulatory failure or a relevant assumption of responsibility of the individual, the state would not be accountable under Article 2 of the ECHR 1950.
Moreover, the current case authority of R (Parkinson) v HM Senior Coroner for Kent (2018) proposed that if death results in a medical case in which liability in tort might arise because of negligent medical treatment, then this will be a case in which the state authorities would not generally be imposed with any obligation under Article 2.
In conclusion, the judges in the Muriel Maguire’s judicial review case had carefully considered the chain of events in the days leading to Jacqueline Maguire’s death and have found that they were not capable of demonstrating any systemic failure or dysfunction. The judges ruled that if there were any failings, they would have been attributable to individual actions and thus, did not require the state or authorities to be accountable.
Reference: R (on the application of Maguire) v HM Senior Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde  EWHC 1232 (Admin).