A coroner was not required to give effect to the investigative obligation under Art 2 of the ECHR when holding an inquest into a death which occurred before the Human Rights Act 1998 was implemented on 2 October 2000. The House of Lords allowed the commissioner’s appeal as an interested party from the Court of Appeal’s decision. This had upheld the order of the Divisional Court made on the application of Mrs Christine Hurst, directing the coroner to resume the adjourned inquest into the death of her son in May 2000. The decision in In Re McKerr that the Human Rights Act duty to act compatibly with Art 2 only applies to deaths after 2nd October 2000 also applies to the s3 duty of interpretation of legislation.
Comment: this case raises the important issue of when the HRA has retrospective effect. The Court of Appeal had ruled that the interpretative obligation under s3 is to give effect to this country's international obligations (the ECHR) and not merely to its domestic obligations as created by the HRA. The House of Lords reversed this decision, concluding that the s3 duty is not retrospective in effect and is limited to cases involving the rights conferred by the HRA. This means that the Coroners Act 1988 must be read as meaning two different things in respect of two people who die in identical circumstances where one death occurs before and the other after 2 October 2000.