Monday, 15 October 2012

Chief Coroner gets into his stride...

The Chief Coroner promised to sit, where possible, on all Coroners' appeals (thus implementing de facto one of the neglected reforms which is not to come into force) - and he is going great guns at present:

On the 11th he found (alongside Foskett J) that the Greater Manchester South Coroner was wrong leave death by dangerous/careless driving as a verdict to a jury. If a driver causes a death, it has to amount to manslaughter in order to be left to a jury as unlawful killing.  Case report here

They noted this, sagely, in passing:

We have reached the conclusion that we have for the reasons given and not for any wider policy reason. However, it has to be observed that, sadly, there are many deaths on the roads in England and Wales each year, all of which require an inquest to be held. The figures for England, Wales and Scotland were 2,222 such deaths in 2009 and 1,850 deaths in 2010. The prospect of hundreds of cases each year being considered, by a coroner or a jury, as potential cases of unlawful killing because of some possible careless driving is alarming, would involve a disproportionate amount of time and expense and would take into the inquest process something it is less well equipped to consider than either a criminal court or a civil court.

The CC was then out today (again with Foskett J) in order to quash the decision of the North West Kent Coroner to hold an article 2 Middleton inquest where it is alleged that Kent County Council could have done more to protect a minor, but where crucially it cannot be established that any failure caused his death.  Case report here.  They sagely noted the following, which Coroners have been saying ever since Middleton came out:

The extent to which the narrower form of inquest that will be required in the light of our decision would differ materially from a Middleton type inquest in this case is, perhaps, debateable. Mr Payne accepted in the course of argument that ultimately there may not be all that much difference in the scope of the inquest and which witnesses are called (albeit that he indicated that the focus of their evidence is likely to differ by reason of it being a Jamieson inquest). He conceded that, bearing in mind the coroner's Rule 43 responsibilities (which the coroner had referred to), the coroner would wish to hear evidence from the claimant local authority and other agencies.

All good stuff, which bodes well for a happy future where Coroners are properly supervised and brought to heal, when they go off-piste.

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