My HRA: Verna Bryant

Posted by Emma Norton on 01 March 2013

Today’s entry in our Common Values blog series on our new short films, showcasing the importance of the Human Rights Act, focuses on Liberty client Verna Bryant. Her daughter, mother-of-one Naomi, was killed by convicted sex offender Anthony Rice while he was on licence from prison in 2005.

An inquest jury concluded that Naomi was unlawfully killed due to an astounding series of institutional failings by the prison, parole board, probation services and other agencies. The inquest which revealed such staggering errors was only made possible by Article 2 of the Human Rights Act, the right to life.

“Naomi was very flamboyant; very full of life,” Verna remembers fondly. “She was murdered by a man called Anthony Rice, who turned out to be a well-known sex offender and who’d been released from jail when he shouldn’t have been.”

Naomi met Rice in a local pub. They went for a drink the next day, before she returned home to wait for her daughter. He followed her, pushed his way in, picked up a knife and murdered her. Rice was quickly caught, admitted killing Naomi and was given a life sentence.

“I did want an inquest because, having found out that he was already a sex offender and a dangerous man, I wondered why he was released from jail and just allowed out free to do it all over again,” Verna recalls. “They said there was no need for an inquest, because he’d already admitted it and so he was in jail already. As far as they were concerned that was it, but I had a lot of unanswered questions.”

At that point Verna got in touch with Liberty. “They advised me that through the Human Rights Act I could get some answers,” she explains. “Article 2, which is the right to life, required an inquest into my daughter’s death.”

The resulting inquest exposed a shocking amount of errors. The hostel Rice was staying at, for example, had no CCTV or adequate curfew monitoring facilities and failed to address his obviously deteriorating behaviour. “I was shocked to discover that (Rice) had previous convictions against children and women and even the authorities weren’t aware of this,” Verna says. “The jury found that all these failings contributed to my daughter’s death.”

Those wishing to dilute the Human Rights Act should take note. But for the legislation, the inquest would never have happened and Verna would never have known the true extent of the numerous and avoidable failings.

“I think that the agencies blamed the Human Rights Act because it’s much easier for them; it covers up all their misdemeanours, they used it as a scapegoat,” Verna adds. “I really hoped that after the inquest some good would come out of it, and this was only made possible for me – or for anybody else – because of the Human Rights Act.”


Emma Norton

Emma Norton

Head of Legal Casework