The practice is extremely experienced in representing Interested Parties before an Inquest. This experience is primarily derived from advising and assisting officers involved in death or serious injury after contact with police cases, which are inevitably the subject of an independent IPCC investigation. There are many other situations however that give rise to an individual being afforded the status of Interested Party and the Partners have advised in a number of diverse circumstances.
The purpose of the Inquest is to establish who has died and the cause of death. Naturally such an examination is traumatic and difficult. Where an individual is likely to be the subject of some criticism they will be afforded the status of an Interested Party.
The practice is experienced in the sensitivities around acting for those in what is a very fraught situation. We have considerable experience in liaising with the Coroner’s Courts and their staff, the Directorate of Legal Services and DPS in relation to determining the appropriate status of an officer, and whether they should apply for Interested Party status. We have considerable experience in liaising with DPS and MOPAC in connection with funding issues.
It is recognised that being involved in an Inquest is a distinct and very different scenario to being involved in a criminal trial and our representation seeks to ensure that all who give evidence are fully and appropriately prepared and that experienced Counsel are instructed to represent them throughout the hearing.
We have been involved in a number of deaths in custody cases involving custody officers, including restraint custody issues, or cases where a detainee has been released and subsequently died.
Feelings can run high, and anonymity for witnesses is sometimes a necessary consideration. The Practice acted for the four officers who gave evidence at the Inquest into the death of Henry Hicks. During the course of that Inquest it was successfully argued on behalf of all four officers that they should not be identified by name and could give evidence from behind screens to preserve their anonymity.
The history of the Practice advising and representing officers in such circumstances includes a number of ‘high profile’ Inquests including the Roger Sylvester Inquest, representing PC Harwood in the Inquest in to the death of Ian Tomlinson; five officers from Thames Valley Police at the Inquest into the Death of Habib Ullah; eleven officers in relation to the Inquest into the Death of Seni Lewis; the Inquest into the Death of Terry Smith at Surrey; Jean Charles De Menezes, and the Mark Duggan Inquest.
Anyone who has concerns relating to an Inquest related matter should contact the office to discuss with a Partner the position and particularly how that may develop in terms of the question of status which should ordinarily be determined obviously prior to the commencement of the Inquest itself.