QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
THE ADMINISTRATIVE COURT
B e f o r e :
|THE QUEEN ON THE APPLICATION OF STANLEY||(CLAIMANT)|
|HER MAJESTY'S CORONER FOR INNER NORTH LONDON||(DEFENDANT)|
Smith Bernal Wordwave Limited
190 Fleet Street London EC4A 2AG
Tel No: 020 7404 1400 Fax No: 020 7831 8838
(Official Shorthand Writers to the Court)
MR M EGAN (instructed by Martin Merry & Co) appeared on behalf of the Police Constable Fagan and Inspector Sharman as INTERESTED PARTY
MS S LEEK (instructed by Directorate of Legal Services, Metropolitan Police) appeared on behalf of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police as INTERESTED PARTY for delivery of judgment only
MS A PROOPS (instructed by Legal Services London Borough of Camden) appeared on behalf of the DEFENDANT for delivery of judgment only
Crown Copyright ©
Tuesday, 29th April 2003
MR JUSTICE SILBER: Introduction
The parties to this application
(i) erred both in admitting evidence of previous convictions of the deceased and also in doing so without first seeking, considering and ruling on submissions on the admissibility of such evidence from representatives of the deceased's family in the absence of the jury ("the previous convictions issue");
(ii) erred both in admitting evidence of the recommendation of the Crown Prosecution Service ("the CPS") that there were to be no criminal proceedings against Inspector Sharman and Police Constable Fagan, and also in doing so without first seeking, considering and ruling on submissions on the admissibility of such evidence from representatives of the deceased's family in the absence of the jury ("the CPS recommendation issue");
(iii) erred in failing to give any sufficient coherent reasons for some of his important rulings and decisions ("the reasons issue");
(iv) failed or refused to call any expert firearms witnesses, save for the commanding officer of Inspector Sharman and Police Constable Fagan ("the expert evidence issue");
(v) erred in not leaving a verdict of unlawful killing for consideration by the jury when there was sufficient evidence to do so ("the unlawful killing verdict issue");
(vi) erred in not leaving a verdict of failing to take reasonable care or neglect for consideration by the jury when there was sufficient evidence to do so("the neglect verdict issue").
The statutory background
"8-(1) Where a coroner is informed that the body of a person ('the deceased') is lying within his district and there is reasonable cause to suspect that the deceased-
(a) has died a violent or an unnatural death;
(b) has died a sudden death of which the cause is unknown; or
(c) has died in prison or in such a place or in such circumstances as to require an inquest under any other Act,
then, whether the cause of death arose within the district or not, the coroner shall as soon as practicable hold an inquest into the death of the deceased either with or, subject to subsection (3) below, without a jury...
(3) If it appears to a coroner, either before he proceeds to hold an inquest or in the course of an inquest begun without a jury, that there is reason to suspect ...
(b) that the death occurred while the deceased was in police custody, or resulted from an injury caused by a police officer in the purported execution of his duty ...
he shall proceed to summon a jury in the manner required by subsection (2) above...
11-(2) The coroner shall, at the first sitting of the inquest, examine on oath concerning the death all persons who tender evidence as to the facts of the death and all persons having knowledge of those facts whom he considers it expedient to examine.
(3) In the case of an inquest held with a jury, the jury shall, after hearing the evidence -
(a) give their verdict and certify it by an inquisition; and
(b) inquire of and find the particulars for the time being required by the [1953 c20] Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953 (in this Act referred to as 'the 1953 Act') to be registered concerning this death...
(5) An inquisition -
(a) shall be in writing under the hand of the coroner and, in the case of an inquest held with a jury, under the hands of the jurors who concur in the verdict;
(b) shall set out, so far as such particulars have been proved -
(i) who the deceased was; and
(ii) how, when and where the deceased came by his death; and
(c) shall be in such form as the Lord Chancellor may by rules made by statutory instrument from time to time prescribe.
(6) At a coroner's inquest into the death of a person who came by his death by murder, manslaughter or infanticide, the purpose of the proceedings shall not include the finding of any person guilty of the murder, manslaughter or infanticide; and accordingly a coroner's inquisition shall in no case charge a person with any of those offences."
"20 Entitlement to examine witnesses (1) Without prejudice to any enactment with regard to the examination of witnesses at an inquest, any person who satisfies the coroner that he is within paragraph (2) shall be entitled to examine any witness at an inquest either in person or by [an authorised advocate as defined by section 119(1) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990]:
Provided that - ...
(b) the coroner shall disallow any question which in his opinion is not relevant or is otherwise not a proper question."
36 Matters to be ascertained at inquest (1) The proceedings and evidence at an inquest shall be directed solely to ascertaining the following matters, namely -
(a) who the deceased was;
(b) how, when and where the deceased came by his death;
(c) the particulars for the time being required by the Registration Acts to be registered concerning the death.
(2) Neither the coroner nor the jury shall express any opinion on any other matters.
42 Verdict No verdict shall be framed in such a way as to appear to determine any question of -
(a) criminal liability on the part of a named person, or
(b) civil liability."
"1. Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
2. Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this Article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:
(a) in defence of any person from unlawful violence;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent the escape of a person lawfully detained;
(c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection."
(a) the use of fatal force by agents of the state requires the most careful scrutiny as "a credible accusation of murder or manslaughter by state agents will call for an investigation of the utmost rigour conducted independently for all to see" (per Lord Woolf CJ in R (Amin and Middleton) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  3 WLR 505, paragraph 62);
(b) the obligation to investigate arises because Article 2 of the Convention enshrines fundamental human rights and when it is arguable that there has been a breach of this article, the state has an obligation to procure an effective and official investigation (Amin paragraphs 53 and 54);
(c) save in exceptional circumstances, a coroner's inquest shall or may be the appropriate forum for complying with the state's obligation to carry out the effective official investigation (R v DPP ex parte ex parte Manning and Melbourne  3 WLR 463, paragraph 33, and R (Wright and Bennett) v Secretary of State  Lloyds Reports Medical 478, paragraphs 43(5));
(d) in carrying out his duties to ensure that a proper investigation is carried out, the coroner is concerned with the procedural obligations under Article 2 of the Convention, which are to "promote those interlocking aims: to minimise the risk of future like deaths; to give the beginnings of justice to the bereaved; to assuage the anxieties of the public" (Amin paragraph 62)
(e) where the jury at the inquest is entrusted with the task of determining the cause of death which follows the use of fatal force by actions of the state, it is incumbent on the coroner to ensure that only relevant evidence is adduced before it so that the three aims that I have stated can be achieved;
(f) "in a situation where a coroner knows that it is the inquest which is in practice the way the State is fulfilling the adjectival obligation under Article (2), it is for the coroner to construe the [Coroners] Rules in the manner required by [the Human Rights Act]" (Amin paragraph 91);
(g) under domestic law, which is unaffected by Article 2, if there is evidence on which a jury properly directed on the law could return a specific verdict, then in accordance with the principles stated in R v Galbraith  1 WLR 1029 at 1042, it is the duty of the coroner to give appropriate directions on that verdict (R v Her Majesty's Coroner for Southwark ex parte Lisa Douglas Williams  1 All ER 344 at 347-348).
The previous convictions issue
The Crown Prosecution Service recommendation issue
The reasons challenge
"In summary then:
(1) there is no general duty to give reasons for its decision but there are classes of case where there is such a duty
(2) one such class is where the subject matter is an interest so highly regarded by the law (for example personal liberty) that fairness requires that reasons, at least for particular decisions be given as a right."
It follows that the duty to give reasons does not apply to every aspect of an inquiry, but in this case the nature of the decisions that were made (and I refer to those relating to the verdicts open to the jury) were of great significance and ought to have been the subject of a reasoned judgment albeit a brief one.
Expert evidence issue
Issues (v) and (vi) - the unlawful killing verdict and the neglect verdict issues
(1) Evidence of previous convictions of the deceased can only be adduced to a jury in the exceptional cases when such evidence is relevant to the issues at the inquest in the light of the aims of Article 2. An example where it might possibly properly be adduced would be if police officers shot somebody who they knew had recent previous convictions for shooting at police officers when he had been arrested.
(2) evidence of any decision made by the CPS concerning the possibility of not prosecuting any person for anything done or omitted to be done to the deceased before his or her death should not be adduced in evidence to a jury at an inquest save in the most exceptional circumstances when it might be relevant to the jury's deliberations. In any event, even if such evidence could properly be adduced, it should only be done on the basis that the jury is told that (a) the decision of the CPS is a provisional decision which would have to be reconsidered after the conclusion of the inquest and (b) they should not be influenced by the decision of the CPS as it is they, the jury, and not the CPS who act as fact-finders at the inquest.
(3) before the coroner or any party to an inquest seeks to adduce evidence of the previous convictions of the deceased or of a decision of the CPS to prosecute or not prosecute anybody in connection with the death of the deceased, the coroner or that person seeking to adduce this evidence should, in the absence of the jury, notify all the other parties at the inquest of his intentions. If then there is a dispute concerning the admissibility of this evidence, the coroner should, in the absence of the jury (a) invite submissions on its relevance and admissibility and (b) give a ruling supported by reasons on its admissibility in the light of those submissions as well as the aims and requirements of Article 2 of the Convention.
(4) the Coroner should, in the absence of the jury, hear submissions on the relevance of any expert evidence that a party wishes to have called before reaching his decision having borne in mind those submissions and the aims and requirements of Article 2 as explained by Lord Woolf CJ in Amin.
(5) the Coroner should give some, albeit brief, reasons for all his significant decisions which affect the achievement of the aims of an inquest as set out by Lord Woolf CJ in Amin so that the party who has failed to obtain an alternative decision knows why he or she has been unsuccessful. Thus, for example, in accordance with the aim of "giv(e)[ing] the beginnings of justice to the bereaved" (Amin paragraph 62), it will be exceptional for a coroner not to explain, albeit briefly, why he is not prepared to allow the jury to consider a verdict sought by the deceased's family and in relation to which there has been some relevant evidence.