The family of an Asian teenager murdered by his racist cellmate won a High Court battle against the Home Secretary yesterday in their campaign for a public inquiry into his death.
Mr Justice Hooper ruled that to deny the family of Zahid Mubarek an "independent investigation" was a breach of their human rights. David Blunkett had rejected the demand in a letter last month to Imran Khan, the lawyer of the Mubareks.
Mubarek, 19, was beaten to death in his cell at Feltham young offenders' institution, west London, in March last year,hours before he was due to be released from a 90-day sentence for petty theft and interfering with a stolen motor vehicle. His killer, Robert Stewart, 20, had a history of mental health problems.
Mr Justice Hooper said Imtiaz Amin, Mubarek's uncle, was entitled to "an independent investigation" into the death under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
An inquest into Mubarek's death was opened and adjourned, pending Stewart's trial and conviction for murder. Mr Justice Hooper said: "Upon the known facts and upon the known assumption made by the Secretary of State in his letter of August 20, 2001 that there would not be an inquest, the claimant is entitled to a declaration that, to fulfil his obligations under Article 2 of the Convention, it is necessary to hold an independent investigation."
A Prison Service inquiry into Mubarek's death led to a damning report that uncovered "overt" racism among a minority of Feltham officers and serious failings in putting the two inmates in the same cell.
In his letter to Mr Khan, Mr Blunkett said: "In view of all that has been done to investigate the circumstances ... I do not believe that a separate public inquiry would add anything of substance or that it would be in the public interest to hold one." The Home Secretary must now decide whether to grant a public inquiry or to reopen the inquest.
Mr Khan called the High Court ruling "a fantastic result".