Morgan and Another v Ministry of Justice and Another

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
JudgeTHE HON. MR JUSTICE SUPPERSTONE,Mr Justice Supperstone
Judgment Date03 September 2010
Neutral Citation[2010] EWHC 2248 (QB)
Date03 September 2010
CourtQueen's Bench Division
Docket NumberCase No: HQ07X00140

[2010] EWHC 2248 (QB)

IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE

QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION

Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Before:

The Hon. Mr Justice Supperstone

Case No: HQ07X00140

Between:
(1) Christina Morgan (on her own behalf and as administratrix of the estate of Karl Lewis)
Claimants
(2) Courtney Morgan (by her mother and litigation friend Christina Morgan)
and
(1) Ministry of Justice
Defendants
(2) The Crown

Paul Bowen and Alex Gask (instructed by Messrs Bhatt Murphy) for the Claimants

Oliver Sanders (instructed by The Treasury Solicitor) for the Defendants

Hearing dates: 19–22 July 2010

Approved Judgment

I direct that pursuant to CPR PD 39A para 6.1 no official shorthand note shall be taken of this Judgment and that copies of this version as handed down may be treated as authentic.

THE HON. MR JUSTICE SUPPERSTONE Mr Justice Supperstone

Introduction

1

This claim arises out of the self-inflicted death, by hanging, of Karl Lewis ("the Deceased") on the night of 21/22 January 2005 while in the custody of HM Young Offender Institution Stoke Heath, Shropshire ("Stoke Heath"). The Deceased, who was born on 29 August 1986, was 18 years old at the time of his conviction, sentence and death.

2

The claim is for damages and declaratory relief and the causes of action are:

i) In negligence under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 ("LR(MP)A"), s.1 and under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 ("FAA"), s.1; and

ii) Under the Human Rights Act 1998 (" HRA"), ss.6–8 (alleged breach of s.6(1) by virtue of conduct incompatible with Convention rights under ECHR, Arts.2 (right to life), 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) and 8 (right to respect for private and family life).

3

By order dated 12 February 2010 Master Leslie directed that there be a separate trial of the following three preliminary issues ("the issues"):

" 1. Liability of Defendants for relevant acts and omissions

Whether and, if so, to what extent the Secretary of State for Justice and/or the Ministry of Justice owed a direct, non-delegable duty of care to the Deceased at common law to ensure that reasonable care was taken by any or all of the entities or individuals referred to at paragraph 7 of the Amended Particulars of Claim in the discharge of their functions and in connection with the prison and probation systems and the matters complained of in the Amended Particulars of Claim.

2. Status and liability of the Crown under HRA

Whether the Crown is a "public authority" for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998, s.6 and can be held liable under ss.6–8 of that Act for the acts or omissions of any or all of the entities or individuals referred to at paragraph 7 of the Amended Particulars of Claim.

3. Capacity of Claimants to bring pleaded claims under HRA

Whether and, if so, to what extent the First Claimant acting in her own right, the First Claimant acting as the administratrix of the Deceased's estate and/or the Second Claimant acting by her mother and litigation friend is capable of bringing proceedings against and recovering damages from the Ministry of Justice, the Secretary of State for Justice and/or the Crown under the Human Rights Act 1998, ss.6–8 in respect of the matters alleged in the Amended Particulars of Claim and, in particular satisfying the 'victim' test in the Human Rights Act 1998, s.7 for the purposes of such a claim."

4

None of the issues requires the resolution of any disputes of fact. Where facts are not agreed, for the purposes of the trial of the issues the parties agree that the Court should assume the Claimants' version to be correct (or capable of being proved correct) and express its ruling accordingly, except in relation to the issue at paragraph 6 below, in which the Court is invited to give a ruling on two alternative factual bases.

5

The First Claimant is the administratrix of the Deceased's estate and (she avers) his fiancée. She is not a "dependant" within the meaning of FAA, s.1(3) because she was neither married to the Deceased nor living with him for two years prior to his death. She is the mother of the Second Claimant, born on 13 January 2005, who, the Claimants aver, is the daughter and only child of the Deceased and the beneficiary of his estate.

6

The Defendants do not admit that the First Claimant was the Deceased's fiancée or that the Second Defendant is his child. For the purposes of the third issue the Court is asked to rule on alternative bases. In relation to the First Claimant, the Court is asked to rule, first, on the assumption that she was the fiancée of the Deceased and, second, on the assumption that she was merely in a relationship with the Deceased. In relation to the Second Claimant, the Court is asked to rule on the basis, first, that she is the Deceased's biological daughter and, second, that although she is not biologically the Deceased's daughter, she has been brought up on the understanding that she is.

7

The Home Office was, at the material time, the Department of State responsible for prisons and probation, including the Probation Service and the Youth Justice Board, under whose aegis Youth Offending Teams ("YOTs") are organised in each local authority area, including (materially) in the Borough of Telford and Wrekin. Since May 2007 (and the events that are the subject of this claim) the First Defendant, the Ministry of Justice, has assumed the above-mentioned responsibilities (and any liabilities arising therefrom) and is now the authorised Government Department for the purposes of the claim in tort. Accordingly, the proceedings have been amended to name the Ministry of Justice as the First Defendant, rather than the Home Office.

8

In connection with the first issue, Mr Bowen, for the Claimants, during the course of his oral submissions and in his written Reply contended for a non-delegable duty of care owed by either or both the Secretary of State for Justice, or the Governor of the prison; it is owed, he submits, by the Secretary of State who directed the Deceased's detention in Stoke Heath and by the Governor who was the custodian of the Deceased and, he further submits, the First Defendant may be held vicariously liable in respect of any breach of either or both duties. It is not necessary for the determination of the issues for there to be a formal amendment to the Pleadings.

9

The Second Defendant, the Crown, is sued under the HRA as (it is alleged) a "public authority" liable for the acts or omissions of any servant, agent or other person or entity empowered to exercise public functions.

10

The claim is brought by the First Claimant, first, on behalf of the Second Claimant (as the Deceased's dependant and beneficiary of his estate) in her capacity as administratrix of the Deceased's estate under FAA, LR(MP)A and HRA, s.7; and secondly, in her own right under HRA, s.7. The claim is also brought by the second claimant in her own right under HRA, s.7 with the First Claimant acting as her litigation friend. The Claimants seek declaratory relief and/or damages and/or compensation under HRA, s.8 for pecuniary and non-pecuniary loss suffered as a result of the acts and omissions of the Defendants, their servants or agents.

11

So far as concerns issues one and two, it is the Claimants' claim, in essence, that the Deceased's death was avoidable. As for the claim in tort, the Claimants allege the Deceased's self-inflicted death was foreseeable and the First Defendant and/or its employees and/or the Governor breached their duties of care by failing to take reasonable measures that would or could have altered the outcome or mitigated the harm; and as for the HRA claim, the Claimants allege that it was known or ought to have been known that the Deceased was at a real and immediate risk of self-inflicted death and that reasonable measures were not taken which would or could have had a real prospect of altering the outcome or mitigating the harm. These claims are disputed by the Defendants. The Defendants accept that they are responsible for the acts and omissions of their employees, including Stoke Heath prison officers and nurses. They do not accept that they are responsible for the other individuals and bodies involved, specifically the doctors and probation staff. At the outset of the hearing Mr Bowen made clear that the first issue is now limited to the acts and omissions of the doctors, and that the claim in respect of probation staff is not pursued in relation to the first issue.

12

In this regard, the Claimants say:

(1) The claim in tort

If the Secretary of State for Justice or the Governor owed a direct, non-delegable duty to the Deceased at common law to ensure that reasonable care was taken in connection with all aspects of the administration and management of the prison system generally and his custody at Stoke Heath in particular, then the First Defendant can be held liable for any negligent acts on the part of any doctors working in the establishment or communicating with the establishment even if it did not employ them; and

(2) The HRA claim

If the Crown is a "public authority" for the purposes of HRA, s.6 and if it can be held liable thereunder for the acts and omissions of other domestic public authorities, then the Second Defendant can be held liable for any breaches of Convention rights on the part of the public authorities and/or healthcare providers mentioned above. More fundamentally, the approach to be taken (the Claimants aver) is to consider the acts and omissions of all the various individuals and bodies and to determine whether, collectively, they give rise to a breach of Convention rights.

13

The Defendants deny the existence of any direct, non-delegable duty of the kind asserted by the Claimants and aver that the First Defendant may only be found vicariously liable in respect of torts committed by its employees i.e....

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6 cases
  • Dolly Daniel and Another v St George's Healthcare NHS Trust and Another
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    • 19 Enero 2016
    ...lived together for 12 years; they had three young children together and the whole family was financially dependent upon him. In Morgan v Ministry of Justice [2010] EWHC 2248, Supperstone J. concluded that the deceased's fiancée could fall within the class of "victim" though it would depend ......
  • The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v DSD and NBV
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    ...scope and effect of the HRA and Article 3". Mr Johnson's reference in the course of argument to the decision of Supperstone J in Morgan [2010] EWHC 2248, which with respect I need not cite, in my judgment takes the matter no further. 20 Like the judge, I would reject Ground 1. DSD/NBV – GRO......
  • Mr Benius Razumas v Ministry of Justice
    • United Kingdom
    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 12 Febrero 2018
    ...also submits that I should follow the decision of Coulson J in GB v Home Office [2015] EWHC 819 (QB) and that I should regard Morgan v Ministry of Justice [2010] EWHC 2248 (QB), in which Supperstone J decided that the Defendant could not hold a non-delegable duty to a prisoner, as wrong for......
  • GB (a protected party by her litigation friend the Official Solicitor) v Home Office
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    • Queen's Bench Division
    • 31 Marzo 2015
    ...conclude that those responsibilities disappeared simply because of an outsourcing decision. 8 Christina Morgan v Ministry of Defence [2010] EWHC 2248 (QB) 44 In Morgan, Supperstone J found that the defendant, who was responsible for the running of a Young Offender Institution at Stoke Heath......
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2 firm's commentaries
  • Medical Law Briefing - December 2021
    • United Kingdom
    • Mondaq UK
    • 19 Diciembre 2021
    ...Court is likely to find that a nondelegable duty is owed, applying the five-stage test in Woodland. 10. Morgan v Ministry of Justice [2010] EWHC 2248 (QB) is a High Court decision preceding Woodland. The Claimants contended that a non-delegable duty was owed by the Ministry of Justice ("MOJ......
  • Medical Law Briefing - December 2021
    • United Kingdom
    • Mondaq UK
    • 19 Diciembre 2021
    ...Court is likely to find that a nondelegable duty is owed, applying the five-stage test in Woodland. 10. Morgan v Ministry of Justice [2010] EWHC 2248 (QB) is a High Court decision preceding Woodland. The Claimants contended that a non-delegable duty was owed by the Ministry of Justice ("MOJ......

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