Fenella Morris QC and Rose Grogan appeared in R (Antoniou) v Central & North West London NHS Foundation Trust and Others on behalf of NHS England. The Claimant brought a claim alleging a violation of article 2 ECHR on the grounds that the investigation into his wife’s death from self-harm while she was detained under the Mental Health Act had not been sufficiently independent. The Claimant argued that, by analogy to cases of deaths in prison and police custody, any investigation into a death of a person detained in a psychiatric hospital should be independent from the outset notwithstanding that an inquest will take place in any event. He challenged the initial internal Serious Untoward Investigation which had been carried out by the NHS Trust and the non-statutory guidance published by the Department of Health and NHS England (as successor to the National Patient Safety Agency) as being contrary to the article 2 procedural obligation.
Dismissing the claim for judicial review, the Divisional Court held that the law does not require that an investigation into a death in psychiatric detention be independently investigated from the outset. The English system of staged investigations, where there is usually an initial internal investigation followed by an inquest, did not fall foul of the requirements of article 2. Further, the guidance published by the Department of Health and NHS England did not misstate the law.