Over £450,000 for the state and £0 for PC Palmer’s family at the Westminster Bridge Inquest - how the inequality of arms at inquests looks set to continue
Legal 500 UK, 2017
Westminster Bridge terror attack, The 7/7 London Bombings and Diana Princess of Wales.Our inquest solicitors have an established record of representing families, other interested persons and witnesses. We have acted in many high profile cases such as the
Although an inquest will not lead to a finding that an individual or an organisation is to blame for someone’s death, it can be a very important part of the process of holding people or bodies to account and in ensuring, where appropriate, that steps are taken to prevent deaths in similar circumstances occurring again. In some circumstances, an inquest can be the first step in deciding whether to bring a claim for damages against an employer or hospital or medical professional.
For families, an inquest conducted by a coroner can be the first and sometimes only way of establishing how their loved one died. With this in mind, we will help to guide you through the inquest process, seeking to minimise the difficulty and distress that may arise.
For senior managers and members of staff in an organisation, an inquest can be a very challenging process of scrutiny and accountability, with potentially significant reputational and commercial consequences.
We will work together with you from the beginning to assist you through every step of the inquest process. We provide sensible advice concerning critical decisions made by the coroner throughout the process, as well as any further steps you may wish to take following the conclusion.
The team is led by Adam Chapman. Our substantial expertise in inquests extends across the firm, including members of our public law, clinical negligence, health and safety and criminal litigation teams, allowing us to resource a truly expert team according to the context and demands of the case.
An inquest is a fact finding exercise led by a Coroner to enable him or her to find out the answers to four questions:
The answers to these questions are recorded at the end of the inquest on the Record of Inquest. The coroner is not allowed to make any findings about civil or criminal liability of individuals or organisations. However in the course of the inquest the coroner is able to, and often does, explore facts which relate to criminal and civil liability. An inquest may be heard with a jury in certain circumstances.
An interested person is a person or an organisation that has been recognised by the coroner as having specific rights in relation to the inquest. For example, interested persons are entitled to receive disclosure from the coroner of key documents relating to the inquest and they are allowed to ask questions of witnesses at the inquest hearing.
Interested persons tend to fall within the following categories:
It is ultimately up to the coroner to decide whether or not an individual or organisation has ‘sufficient interest’ in order to be named an interested person.
The coroner will ask witnesses to prepare a statement, attend the inquest hearing and answer questions asked by the coroner and any interested persons. The coroner has the power to summons witnesses and so you cannot refuse to attend. If it is very difficult for you to attend an inquest, for example if you are ill or abroad, the coroner may agree that your evidence can be provided in a written statement which is read out to the court.
Being a witness is inevitably a challenging process. If you need advice about what to expect, it would be beneficial to consult a specialist inquest lawyer.
Article 2 inquests are inquests where it is considered by the coroner that the state may have breached its duties under article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life). The main difference to a non-article 2 inquest is a legal one: the question of ‘how’ the deceased came about his or her death must be read as meaning ‘by what means and in what circumstances’. In order to answer this question satisfactorily, and ensure that if there have been any article 2 breaches then they are uncovered, the coroner’s investigation is usually broader and more flexible than in a non-article 2 inquest.
Legal aid is generally not available for legal representation at inquests. There is a Legal Help scheme available to families which covers preparatory work associated with an inquest but this does not cover representation at the inquest itself. In order to obtain funding for representation at the inquest hearing, the inquest must be an article 2 inquest or there must be a determination by the Legal Aid Agency that there is a ‘wider public interest’ in providing funding. When applying for legal aid in either of these two scenarios, the applicant must provide extensive information about their financial means which will be taken into account by the Legal Aid Agency when deciding whether or not to require a contribution towards their legal fees. We do not represent legally aided clients in inquests.
Partner and Head of Department
Partner and Head of Department
One of their main strengths is the personal touch - you get the sense the lawyers really care about the work they undertake and you as a client"
Chambers UK, A Clients Guide to the UK Legal Profession, 2019
experience, willingness to challenge and be challenged, understanding of legislation, regulations and drafting skills."
Chambers UK, A Clients Guide to the UK Legal Profession, 2018
Sources praise the group's abilities in 'sensitive, high-profile, politically inflected work' and attest that 'what is really refreshing is their commitment to their clients and the care they take'..."
Chambers UK, A Clients Guide to the UK Legal Profession
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