21 September 2019

Do you work in the coroners courts?

Barristers who work in the coroners courts may wish to be aware of two recent reports in this area.

First, in 2017, the Government commissioned the Right Reverend Bishop James Jones KBE, former Bishop of Liverpool, to produce a report into the experience of victims of the Hillsborough disaster. The published report titled The patronising disposition of unaccountable power made a number of observations about "…the defensive and adversarial approach…" of legal representatives in inquests "…to the questioning of witnesses to emphasise the culpability of others."  The report notes that "An inquest is intended to be an inquisitorial process: a process of investigation, quite unlike a traditional adversarial trial. There are no parties, no prosecution and no defence."

The Bishop made a number of recommendations in his report, including a suggestion that additional training may be required for solicitors and barristers working in the inquest system. 

Second, the Government published another report in 2017 by the Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC into deaths and serious incidents in police custody.  The report also expressed concerns about the adversarial nature of inquests which "…has led, on occasion, to hostile and insensitive questioning of family members by QCs or barristers representing the state."

If you work in the coroners courts, you may wish to be aware of these reports in considering your CPD plans.