Heather Williams QC establishes that police pursuit breached Article 2 right to life

In a judgment handed down today at Central London County Court, Seddon v Chief Constable of Thames Valley Police, HHJ Baucher found that Thames Valley police failed to take reasonable steps to protect the life of Matthew Seddon, who died during a police pursuit when his vehicle crashed, and he sustained multiple injuries.

In a claim brought by his mother and his partner under the Human Rights Act 1998, the Judge decided that police owed a duty under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to take reasonable steps to protect Matthew’s life from the real and immediate risks arising from the high-speed pursuit (“the operational duty”).

Legally, the case is important as this is the first time a court has ruled that the Article 2 operational duty applies to the conduct of a police pursuit. The Judge rejected the Chief Constable’s argument that no such duty could arise.

The Judge went on to find that the duty was breached because the pursuing officer failed to communicate relevant information to the Force’s Control Room and failed to discontinue the pursuit when the risk to life became disproportionate to its continuance. She also found the duty was breached by another officer placing his vehicle in a dangerous position, which led to the crash.

At the four-day trial, the family members were represented by Heather Williams QC of Doughty Street Chambers and Kirsten Sjøvoll of Matrix Chambers, instructed by Beverley McBean of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors.