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Supreme Court of Denmark

Judgment in the Loegstoer case 

Case no. 170/2010
Judgment 9 June 2011
 

M and the estate left by A
vs.
The North-Jutland Police
and
The Ministry of Justice

Judgment in case concerning the death of a young man in police custody following an arrest. The Danish press has referred to the incident as the "Løgstør case".

On the evening of 14 June 2002, two police officers arrested a 21-year-old man, A, and hand-cuffed him. On the way to the police station in Aalborg, the two officers called for reinforcement from Aalborg Police, because the arrestee in the backseat was so agitated that the police officer sitting next to him was not able to keep him still. The duty officer ordered the officers to pull over, and they made a stop at a lay-by. Here, the young man was taken out of the car and was, among other things, placed on his stomach in the so-called prone position. They also tried to put him in a leg-lock, but did not succeed. Suddenly he became lifeless, and the officers, who believed that they had seen signs of life, removed the handcuffs, put him in the recovery position and called an ambulance. Two police officers from Aalborg Police arrived at the lay-by shortly before the ambulance. The paramedics found no signs of life and tried in vain to resuscitate him. On arrival at the hospital, the young man was pronounced dead.

The appellants, A's mother, M and the estate left by A, had, among other things, claimed that the North-Jutland Police and the Ministry of Justice should pay compensation for non-pecuniary loss etc. due to their responsibility or co-responsibility for A's death. One of the things that were asserted was that the police had neglected their duty and that Article 2 (right to life) of the European Human Rights Convention had been infringed. The North-Jutland Police and the Ministry of Justice moved for rejection of the claim.

The majority of the Supreme Court, three judges, stated that if a healthy person is arrested by the police and later dies while in police custody, the State is under an obligation to provide a plausible explanation of the events leading to the death of the arrestee. Also, in this case, where only the police witnessed the death, the police statement must be required to be satisfactory and convincing. The judges found that the authorities' statement regarding the events was satisfactory and convincing, and that the four officers had not acted negligently nor infringed Article 2 of the Convention.

However, a minority of two judges did not consider the authorities' statement regarding the events that took place at the lay-by to be satisfactory and convincing considering that A died.

The High Court had reached the same conclusion as the majority.

 

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