Undergraduate Module Descriptor

LAW3137: Lethal Force, the ECHR and Democracy

This module descriptor refers to the 2019/0 academic year.


NQF Level 6
Credits 15 ECTS Value 7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module ran during term 1 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Professor Stephen Skinner (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


When the State kills in law enforcement operations, and when someone dies in the care or custody of the state, fundamental questions are raised about human rights, State power and the rule of law – in other words, about the foundations of democracy. The most fundamental right under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is Article 2, the Right to Life. This allows a narrow range of exceptions related to the State’s use of lethal and potentially lethal force in policing operations, and establishes duties on the State relating to people arrested and in custody. These areas have been the object of increasing amounts of ECHR case law in recent years, as well as high-profile news stories. In its judgments, the European Court of Human Rights explicitly links its formulation of controls over State killing, deaths in custody and other deaths after contact with State agents, in terms of the importance of this area of law for democracy, which involves vitally important substantive and procedural dimensions. Through an examination of Article 2, related case law and the challenging – even shocking – incidents involved in their socio-political context, this module will enable you to deepen your understanding of human rights law in a specific area and, essentially, critically engage with key foundations of European democracy. In other words, it uses a specific focus on a specialist area of European human rights law as a way into an exploration of fundamental theoretical and practical issues relating to law and the State in contemporary Europe. This module will complement and/or build on the other available optional modules on the ECHR and Human Rights Act. It will also be relevant if you are interested in questions of policing,custody, State power and European current affairs.

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