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Antoine v UK - 62960/00 [2003] ECHR 709 European Court of Human Rights


Antoine aged 16 was charged with an offence relating to taking part in the killing of a 15 year old boy. The killing by stabbing had been committed as a sacrifice to the devil. It had been carried out by another who pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. After hearing medical evidence from three psychiatrists, the trial judge with the support of both counsel for prosecution and defence, directed the jury to find the applicant was unfit to plead. A second jury was empanelled for a s.4A hearing, under Criminal Procedure (Insanity) Act 1964, to determine whether the defendant had committed the actus reus of the crime of which he was accused. The jury found that he had committed the offence and the judge made an order that he would be committed to hospital without limit of time. Antoine appealed on the grounds that he should have been allowed the defence of diminished responsibility at the s.4A hearing. Also that there was a breach of Article 6 & 3 of the Convention as due to his mental condition, he was unable to participate effectively in the hearing. He also claimed breach of Art 6 in that the hearing would not determine conclusively his criminal liability and he could be tried fully for the crime at any time in the future. He also complains under Article 3 of the Convention of living under the threat of a further prosecution and the difficulties this poses to his rehabilitation as he cannot co-operate with those responsible for his care for fear that anything that he says about the events may be used in evidence against him. He claims that his ongoing hospital detention under these conditions amounts to a denial of his right to liberty and security of person under Article 5 and also infringes Article 6 & 2 of the Convention.


Held:

The court unanimously found that the application was manifestly ill founded.

The s.4A hearing could not lead to a criminal conviction and was therefore outside the scope of Article 6. Such hearings are designed as a protective mechanism for the accused to prevent an order where there is no evidence that they have in fact committed any offence. A hospital order may involve the loss of liberty but is not regarded as a mechanism of punishment.
 
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