Prime Minister facing challenge in ECHR and call to resign over handling of bullying and violence related harm and suicides in UK schools.

Campaigners will seek justice in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after the Court of Appeal ruled in a case, that sought to determine issues in relation to bullying and violence related harm, deaths and suicides in UK schools. The Case alleged that the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, had acted irrationally in passing a letter to the Department for Education (DfE), which allowed them to determine if serious criminal allegations levelled against themselves, related to the deaths, should be subject to investigation and a public inquiry. 

The Court of Appeal accepted that due to possible errors, the claim may have been wrongly dismissed but rejected a 52:30 application to re open the case. The Court of Appeal incorrectly found that the Claim had been rendered academic on more than one count and that a number of points that it had been argued to be relevant were not, while points that were argued to be irrelevant were central to the issues.

Although the Court now accepts mistakes may have been made, they have found in this case, that the principle of finality should apply. The principle of finality is an important principle within the British legal system, which means parties engage in litigation, accepting that justice is imperfect and judges may make mistakes, but at some stage despite potential errors, a final decision has to be accepted. This means that even in a case such as this, where a judge accepts that a decision may be wrong, apart from in exceptional circumstances, the decision should stand. A final application has been made to re open the case, after the initial application was dismissed under the 52:30 provision but if refused, the Campaign will seek to appeal to the ECHR.

The Claim had been brought by Jason Barnett, a devout Christian and former teacher, who since 2019, has led a campaign group of more than 150 families from across the UK, that have had children seriously harmed or lost to suicide, as a consequence of bullying, physical and sexual violence in schools. The Prime Minister had faced the Claim after an initial request for a public inquiry was made to him in early 2023, as a consequence of a wider nine year campaign led by Mr Barnett, who had sought to force leaders and Government to investigate and address the issues, including an alleged cover up of violence in schools since 2014.

The threat of a Legal challenge was first brought to the Prime Minister’s attention in May 2023. Subsequently a ‘Pre-action response’ was received from the Prime Minister’s Lawyers, advising that the Prime Minister had chosen to defend the claim and therefore reject the proposal to look to resolve the issues outside of the Courts if possible.

The Prime Minister subsequently filed a defence, arguing why he considered the decision not to be irrational, in light of the allegations of wrongdoing by the DfE. In December 2023, the High Court dismissed the case which was subsequently dismissed on Appeal in February 2024. The alleged errors then led to the initial application to re-open the case dismissed in March 2024 and to the present 52:30 application which currently awaits final judgment.

Whatever the outcome, the failings of the Prime Minister which have been exposed in evidence over the course of the litigation, have rendered his current position as Prime Minister untenable. As a consequence, a letter calling for his immediate resignation has been sent to 10 Downing Street and the Cabinet Office. The letter will also be made publicly available early next week.

NB: All Court documents including judgments, transcripts and witness statements are available to the Media.