UKSC to clarify ill-treatment obligations under HRA and ECHR

Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis (Appellant) v DSD and another (Respondents) – UKSC 2015/0166

On appeal from the Court of Appeal Civil Division (England and Wales)

The Respondents were victims of John Worboys, a serial sex offender known as the Black Cab Rapist and thought to be responsible for the drugging and sexual assault of over 100 women.

Both NBV and DSD reported their assault to the police, and in NBV’s case Worboys was quickly arrested as a suspect but released without charge. In DSD’s case, he was never identified.

Following a review of sexual assault cases by police in February 2008, cases were identified which involved a particular modus operandi by the perpetrator. This resulted in a police media appeal which led to the identification of DSD and NBV as victims as well as numerous other women.

Worboys was eventually charged with 23 offences relating to 14 victims and convicted of 19 counts (including the assault on NBV).

Both women brought damages proceedings against the police, alleging failure to carry out effective investigations into their complaints that amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The issues in this case are:

  1. Whether there is an obligation under section 6 Human Rights Act 1998, read with Article 3 ECHR, to investigate ill-treatment which has been perpetrated by a private individual without any complicity of a public authority and/or;
  2. Whether in the case of such ill-treatment any positive obligation is confined to a requirement to put in place the necessary structure to enable such investigation to be conducted but does not extend to the conduct of an individual investigation into a particular alleged crime.
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