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Challenging a Coroner’s Decision

It is sometimes possible to challenge a coroner’s decision or an inquest conclusion. The grounds for doing so are complex and there may be strict time limits involved so it is important to speak to a specialist solicitor.

Broadly speaking, a challenge may be made in two ways:

Applying to the High Court for a judicial review

If you want to apply for judicial review this needs to be done as soon as possible and within 3 months of the decision to be challenged.

There are grounds, based upon public law principles, on which a coroner’s decision or the outcome of an inquest may sometimes be challenged. These are concerned with the fairness of the procedure and whether the coroner properly exercised his/her powers. If you feel a coroner has acted unreasonably, outside his/her powers or by not doing something that she/he was obliged to do, it may be possible to seek a judicial review. The High Court does not always have to order a fresh inquest as a result of a successful judicial review.

An application under s.13 of the Coroners Act 1988

The deadlines for an application under s.13 of the Coroners Act are not as strict as for Judicial Review, provided the criteria are met. Such an application can only be brought with the consent (known as a ‘fiat’) of the Attorney General. Once the consent of the Attorney General has been given, on hearing the application the High Court may order an investigation into the death to be held by the same or another coroner or quash the determination or finding of the original inquest, if one has taken place.

In what circumstances will the High Court quash the original inquest and order a fresh investigation and inquest?

Section 13 of the Act provides that the High Court must be satisfied that either:

  • the coroner is refusing or neglecting to hold an inquest or an investigation which ought to be held; or
  • where an inquest or an investigation has been held, that it is necessary or desirable in the interests of justice that an investigation or another investigation be held (whether because of fraud, rejection of evidence, irregularity or proceedings, insufficiency of inquiry, the discovery of new facts or evidence or otherwise).

A notable example includes the quashing of the original Hillsborough inquest findings. In 2012, the Hillsborough Independent Panel published its report which highlighted new evidence relating to the events of and since the Hillsborough disaster on 15 April 1989. The Attorney-General then made an application under s.13 of the Coroners Act 1988 to quash the findings returned in the original inquests. The court subsequently quashed the original findings and ordered that a fresh inquest should be held.

Saunders Law - Protecting & Enforcing Our Clients’ Rights

At Saunders Law, we offer expert legal assistance and representation in inquests and inquiries into non-natural deaths. We’re well-known for our inquest work and thorough approach to complex cases. All of our solicitors within the Civil Liberties and Actions against the Police Department have experience of acting for families in inquest proceedings, including where someone has died in police custody, prison, an immigration detention centre, or while detained under the Mental Health Act. If you are thinking about challenging a coroner’s decision, it is important that you seek specialist advice as soon as possible.

For a free, no-obligation, initial discussion of how we may be able to help, please contact us today.

Call us on 020 7632 4300 or make an enquiry online.