Be prepared for pre-inquest hearings — essential guidance for coroners and interested parties
By Stuart Knowles and Alison Maw
It is likely coroners will list more pre-inquest hearings. It is vital everyone knows, well in advance, what is to be discussed and decided. Proper preparation by all, including the coroner, will lead to better outcomes.
Following allegations of collusion and conspiracy between the police and a coroner, the chief coroner has given clear guidance on how to conduct pre-inquest hearings. It all seems sensible and coroners would do well to follow them. Interested parties should always ask a coroner to prepare an agenda before turning up to a pre-inquest hearing (PIH). It will also be helpful if interested parties suggest matters they would like to be included for discussion so everyone knows what is expected before the final hearing and proper preparation can be made to ensure a fair conclusion is reached.
In Ernest Andrew Brown v HM Coroner for Norfolk and the Chief Constable of Norfolk (2014), the High Court handed down a decision following an application for an order to quash an inquest and to hold a fresh investigation. It was established that incomplete and inaccurate evidence was presented to the coroner following an inadequate police investigation. It was decided that the coroner, in that case, was unable to reach a safe and reliable conclusion as to how the deceased came about her death because vital evidence about the circumstances of death had not been brought to his attention…
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