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Complaints against the police and human rights

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Complaints against the police and human rights

05 September 2013

The Inner House has issued its Opinion in Ruddy v. Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police and the Lord Advocate [2013] CSIH 73. The decision concerns the requirements of Article the European Convention on Human Rights when an individual in police custody alleges that he has been mistreated by the police.

The pursuer alleges that he was assaulted by officers of Strathclyde Police while in custody.  He also alleges that his complaint was not investigated by the relevant authorities (the police and the procurator fiscal) in a manner which complied with Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular, the pursuer alleges: (i) that insofar as the investigation was undertaken by a police officer within the Complaints Department of Strathclyde Police it did not meet the requirement of structural independence; and (ii) that he was not given an adequate explanation for the rejection of his allegation.

The Court has held that the pursuer’s averments that the investigating officer was an officer in the same force as the officers against whom the allegation of assault had been made amount to a prima facie case of want of structural independence in breach of the requirements of Article 3. Such averments suffice for the onus to pass to the state authorities to aver facts and circumstances which show adequately developed structural mechanisms and hierarchical separation to ensure that the  investigation had the necessary structural independence.

The Court has also held that the pursuer was not given an explanation which satisfied the requirements of Article 3. The procurator fiscal had advised him: “Having considered the statements and reports relating to your complaint I am satisfied that the available evidence would not justify any criminal proceedings against any Police Officer." This did not disclose the basis upon which that conclusion had been reached; nor did it detail or summarise the evidence relied upon (which had not been disclosed to the pursuer). The Complaints Branch of Strathclyde Police had provided a more detailed letter, but this expressly excluded from consideration any examination of the allegation of assault.

The Inner House allowed a proof before answer with all pleas standing and remitted the case to the sheriff.  The decision can be found at:-

James Wolffe QC and Kenny McBrearty, both of Axiom Advocates, represented the successful pursuer.