Sunday, 8 July 2012

Coroner on the sidelines - thanks to Falconer (2)

In his letter of 6 May 2011 to Mr McGinty at the Attorney General's Office Mr Gardiner says:

..... The toxicology and histology tests were carried out very quickly and within a few days Dr Hunt was able to tell me that as a result he needed to expand upon the cause of death by indicating that co-proximal and heart disease would be given as contributing causes.

In the mean time I had been contacted by the Department of Contitutional Affairs (Ms Albon) and it was becoming clear that the Lord Chancellor would be making a request under Section 17(A)1.  By that time I was aware that Dr Hunt wished to expand on the causes of death he had originally given.  The agreement that I had thought that I had reached with Ms Albon was that I would briefly resume the inquest for the purpose of accepting a full cause of death and then would accede to the Lord Chancellor's request.

However at that point there was a change of heart in the Lord Chancellor's office and it was indicated that I should adjourn under Section 17 immediately.  My problem was that if I did that I would have to register the death with an incomplete cause of death that is I would be making a statement that I knew to be false.  I was not content to do this.  It so happened that at the time I was a member of the Coroner's advisory group and we had a meeting on the 8th August which I attended. I discussed the problem with the then secretary of the Coroner's Society of England and Wales (Mr Round) and he agreed with the point I was making.

Our meeting concluded at lunchtime and so we telephoned the Department of Constitutional Affairs and went to meet them that afternoon.  Eventually they were persuaded to my point of view.  I enclose herewith a copy of a letter dated 12th August 2003 which I received from Ms Albon.  Following this as you know the inquest was briefly resumed to admit the proper cause of death which I was then able to convey to the registrar so that the death certificate would accurately reflect the pathologists view.  

The highlighted words are more evidence of my belief that a very early decision had been made to invoke Section 17A bearing in mind that it was 25 July when Dr Hunt expanded on the cause of death.  I am more confident now about the suggestion I had made that Hutton was able to assure Mrs Kelly on the 26th that she wouldn't have to attend an inquest.

According to Mr Gardiner the meeting with the Department of Constitutional Affairs was on the afternoon of the 8th (a Friday).  Their version of events is that the meeting took place on the following Monday.


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