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Supreme Court upholds first tier tribunals ruling that suicidal people may not be aware full effects of their actions.

Date: (22 April 2013)    |    

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Supreme Court has backed the initial tribunal by reaffirming the principle that suicidal people may not realise full effects of their actions.
Eight years ago Barry Hughes parked his car on the six lane carriageway linking M25 motorway to the Dartford Crossing Bridge in Essex. He got out of his car waited for an articulated lorry approaching in the centre lane and then ran out into the road and stood in the path of the lorry with his arms stretched.
Hughes was killed instantly. The inquest into his death returned an open verdict but the obvious inference was that he intended to kill himself.
All this must have been deeply distressing for the lorry driver, Brian Nash. But there was an even greater tragedy to come. Following not far behind him, but in the nearside lane, was a gritting vehicle. When Nash instinctively braked, the back of his lorry swerved into the gritter's path. There was a collision. The gritter vehicle's cab was completely destroyed and its driver, Gareth Jones, was thrown from his vehicle. He suffered severe injuries leaving him in need of full time residential care.
Litigation lawyers instructed by Jones's mother lodged an application with the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA). But compensation was refused on the grounds that Jones was not the victim of a violent criminal injury. Hughes may have intended to kill himself but suicide is not a crime.
Jones’s lawyers argued that Hughes had committed a crime before his death. He in fact had inflicted grievous bodily harm (GBH) on Jones. The lawyers put forth their argument that it was crime of violence and came within the compensation scheme.
The tribunal did not agree with the arguments and said that Hughes did not intended any harm to anybody nor he was reckless as to the fact that his actions was going to cause harm to a third person hence there was no GBH.
Jones challenged the tribunal's decision before the upper tribunal. That challenge also failed. The upper tribunal ruled that there was nothing irrational about the finding by the first-tier tribunal that Hughes was not reckless.
Jones's lawyers then took the case to the court of appeal, where Lord Justice Patten seemed to think that the issue in the case was whether GBH was a crime of violence. He seemed to think that the first-tier tribunal had found against Jones for that reason.
The court of appeal ruled that it was highly improbable that a man running in front of a lorry wouldn’t have foreseen the harm that might be caused to others.
So the CICA took its case to the Supreme Court which overruled the court of appeal. Lord Hope said the appeals court was unduly influenced by its own view of improbability that a person running against a lorry would not foresee the possibility of an accident and harm due to it. But such question had to be decided by the first tier tribunal and not the court of appeal it ruled.
Expressing "every sympathy" for Jones and his family, Hope made it clear that the CICA and the tribunals had been right all along that the terms of the scheme did not permit an award of compensation in this case.

 

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