The appellants in this case were the next of kin of two men who had been killed by the army in Northern Ireland in 1990. It had been alleged that they were victims of a shoot to kill policy.
The coroner held pre-inquest hearings at the end of 2009 and at those hearings declined to give a ruling that he would hold an inquest into the deaths which complied with the requirements of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) as enacted into the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998).The deaths occurred before the HRA came into force and therefore it was at least arguable that its provisions did not apply to the current case.
In an application for permission to apply for judicial review the appellants sought to persuade the judge that they were entitled to a declaration that the coroner was obliged to conduct the inquest in a way which satisfied the procedural obligations of Article 2. The application was refused both at first instance and by the Court of Appeal although that court granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The judgment, which runs to 55 pages, considered complex arguments on the interpretation of case law but in short the decision appears to be saying although the HRA 1998 does not apply retrospectively ie, it does not permit the claimant to bring a claim for breach of a convention obligation that occurred before the act came into force, the ambit of the application of the HRA 1998 should mirror that of convention on human rights. This can only be achieved if claimants are able to bring claims in their home jurisdiction that they would be permitted to bring to the Strasbourg court. Therefore In circumstances where a decision is made to hold an inquest into deaths that occurred prior to the enactment of the HRA 1998 Article 2 of the ECHR imposes a freestanding obligation to ensure that the interests satisfy the procedural requirements of Article 2.
Full judgment can be found here.