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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 18:13 GMT 19:13 UK
Raid was a breach of human rights
Exterior, European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg
The Keegans heard the judgement in Strasbourg on Tuesday
Merseyside Police breached a family's human rights in raiding their home in a hunt for armed robbers, European judges have ruled.

Gerard and Moira Keegan were awarded 2,065 each and their four children will receive 1,375 each for their stress resulting from the raid in 1999.

The Keegans had lost a UK county court action against the force for unlawful entry and false imprisonment.

But Human Rights judges in Strasbourg overturned the decision on Tuesday.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled the action was not malicious but did breach Article 8 of the convention on Human Rights.

Merseyside Police regret the distress caused to the Keegan family through what was a genuine mistake
Jon Murphy, Merseyside Police

The Keegans were asleep in their home in Henderson Street, Liverpool, when police battered down the door on 18 October 1999.

They had moved in six months earlier but the address was linked to a suspect in a series of armed robberies, who had the same surname as a previous tenant.

The Keegans claimed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a the "terror, distress and psychiatric harm" of an unlawful entry based on a maliciously-procured search warrant.

The government argued the raid had been justified in the circumstances.

But the European Court of Human Rights, in its ruling, said the Keegans had "no connection whatsoever" with any suspect or offence.

The judgment said: "Although the police did not act with malice, and indeed with the best of intentions, there was no reasonable basis for their action in breaking down the applicants' door early one morning while they were in bed."

Police favour

Judges also upheld the Keegans' complaint of a breach of the Human Rights Convention because UK law lacked an "effective remedy" to deal with a violation of their human rights.

Under UK law, the Keegans had to prove malice on the part of the police and that was "too onerous a hurdle", judges said.

The need to prove malice meant that "the balance was set in favour of the police in such cases", they added.

In addition to the damages, the UK government was ordered to pay the Keegans the 6,500 cost of taking the case the Strasbourg.

Speaking after the ruling, Deputy Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Jon Murphy, said the force was disappointed with the decision.

He said: "Merseyside Police regret the distress caused to the Keegan family through what was a genuine mistake.

"But I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise that on occasions when acting in the public interest and protecting the community incidents such as this can occur."

Profile: European Court of Human Rights
09 Mar 06 |  Country profiles

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