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John Beggs QC and James Berry appear in judicial review challenge to decision not to re-open murder investigation

21st June 2022

Lee Balkwell died in 2002. His body was found by emergency services crushed between the drum and the chassis of a cement mixer that he had been cleaning out with his employer. Lee Balkwell’s father is adamantly of the view that the employer murdered his son.

Essex Police’s original investigation was criticised by IPCC and the Chief Constable has apologised to Lee Balkwell’s family. Essex Police commissioned a review by West Midlands Police, then a major investigation by Kent Police to discharge the recommendations of the review. That investigation involved the exhumation of Lee Balkwell’s body and resulted in the employer being prosecuted for manslaughter (of which he was acquitted) and health and safety offences (of which he was convicted).

Lee Balkwell’s father subsequently obtained the assistance of a firm of private investigators and asked Essex Police to re-open the investigation into his son’s death. Essex Police decided not to do so. Mr Balkwell then obtained evidence from an eminent pathologist who disagreed with the evidence of the pathologists who had previously provided reports. He again sought the re-opening of the investigation. This request was also declined.

Mr Balkwell sought judicial review of Essex Police’s decisions on the basis that they were irrational and in breach of Article 2 ECHR. He argued that Essex Police had never complied with its Article 2 investigative obligation following his son’s death or, alternatively, that the obligation had been ‘revived’ by the new material he had presented to the police.

The Divisional Court dismissed Mr Balkwell’s claim and found that Essex Police’s decisions were reasonable, that the Article 2 investigative obligation had not been ‘revived’ by the new material and that, even if it had, Essex Police had discharged that obligation in the steps it took upon receiving that material.

For the judgment click here.

John Beggs QC and James Berry represented Essex Police in this long running litigation.

Both John and James are expert in judicial review challenges to decisions concerning police investigations and the use of police powers including arrest and search.

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