Victim and Witness Rights

Section 10: Right to protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment

Section 10 of the HR Act provides that:
No-one may be –
(a) tortured; or
(b) treated or punished in a cruel, inhuman or degrading way.

Investigation stage
Some relevant considerations for victims when considering the concept of this right during the investigation stage would include:

  • police have an obligation to take complaints seriously and conduct investigations in a timely and efficient manner [Black Cab Rapist (DSD and Anor v Commissioner of Police) [2015] 1 WLR 1833];
  • DPP must adequately investigate the possibility of taking the matter to trial if there is sufficient information that a crime has been committed [Valiuliene v Lithuania [2013] ECHR (application no. 33234/07) (26 March 2013)].

Case example (prevention of degrading treatment or punishment)
The so-called ‘black cab rapist’ committed more than 100 drug and alcohol assisted rapes and sexual assaults on women he had been carrying in his cab between 2002 and 2008 in London.

The fact that the women had been drugged reduced the likelihood of his apprehension and arrest as he left his victims confused and disorientated, frequently with only a partial memory of their ordeal.

The police had guidelines on how to deal with this type of crime. However the guidelines were largely ignored and officers did not receive any training on them. As a result, there was a series of systematic failures in this case which led to the failure to apprehend the attacker at an earlier date.

The police service was found liable to the claimants for a breach of the Human Rights Act which imposed a duty upon police to conduct investigations into particularly severe violent acts perpetuated by private parties in a timely and efficient manner.

Source: DSD and Anor v Commissioner of Police [2015] 1 WLR 1833.

Court Stage
Some relevant considerations for victims when considering this right during the court stage would include:

  • restricting the ability of counsel to cross-examine vulnerable witnesses in certain circumstances including children and victims of sexual assault, for example; to only asking necessary questions
  • assisting witnesses to give evidence to the court through the use of intermediaries.