INQUESTS & INQUIRIES
Serjeants’ Inn has substantial expertise in inquests and inquiries. Described by The Legal 500 as a “first port of call” in this field, we are ranked as a tier one set in a leading directory. In a team led by Bridget Dolan QC, five members sit as assistant coroners and ten members of our inquest and inquiries team are ranked as leading barristers in the field. It will be no surprise that barristers from Serjeants’ Inn regularly appear in substantial and complex high media profile cases representing interested persons and as Counsel to the Inquest.
Our team covers all aspects of coronial law with members advising and representing bereaved families, individuals, public bodies and corporate entities in cases covering a vast range of complicated legal and factual issues. That we have specialist counsel of all levels of call ensures that we can offer a breadth of experience to suit every client’s needs and budget. Organisations often turn to Serjeants’ Inn when reputational issues are at stake. Families who have lost loved ones can find not only the skills of an experienced barrister but also someone sensitive to the uniquely stressful situation of managing legal proceedings so shortly after bereavement, when the loss is still so raw.
Our wide expertise in inquests combined with the fact that we are a leading set in the fields of clinical negligence, police and regulatory law means that we are well placed to advise and represent parties through all stages of the civil litigation that can often follow an inquest. We have particular expertise in bringing and defending Judicial Review challenges of coronial decisions. Members of chambers have represented five coroners in such challenges over the past year.
Our Inquests team also writes a popular and frequently updated UK Inquest law blog, which can be found here. In addition the specialist Inquest Law Reports are edited by two barristers from Serjeants’ Inn Chambers, Bridget Dolan QC and Briony Ballard, and the Medical Law Reports are also written and edited by a team from Chambers led by Angus Moon QC. As well as delivering our ever popular annual Inquest Law Update Seminars and other regular training for lawyers and staff from public bodies on all aspects of coronial law, Chambers contributes to the compulsory training for all Coroners (through the Chief Coroners Coronial Training course).
Our members regularly act pro bono for bereaved families through the Bar Pro Bono Unit and other charitable organisations. Several team members have public access accreditation and so can accept instructions directly from lay clients.
Barristers from Serjeants’ Inn have represented interested persons in many lengthy and high-profile inquests attracting intense media scrutiny. Examples include:
- the inquests into the Westminster Bridge deaths – where Sebastian Naughton was instructed for an interested person;
- the Birmingham Bombing inquests – Nageena Khalique QC joined the team representing the bereaved families in 2016
- the inquest into the death of Miss Ednan-Laperouse after eating an unlabelled sandwich containing sesame seeds – Malcolm Fortune represented the enforcement authority
- the Hillsborough inquests – John Beggs QC, Michael Mylonas QC, Paul Spencer, James Berry, Oliver Williamson and Aaron Rathmell were instructed on behalf of five different interested persons;
- the inquests into the deaths of Privates James, Benton and Gray at Deepcut Army Barracks – held between 2016-2019 Bridget Dolan QC and Jamie Mathieson have acted as Counsel to the Inquest for each of these three inquests, while John Beggs QC, Paul Spencer, Cecily White, and Oliver Williamson have also been instructed for interested persons;
- the inquest into the of the deaths Corporal Mathew Hatfield and Corporal Darren Neilson following the explosion of a Challenger 2 Tank during in a live fire exercise in Wales where Edward Pleeth represented the Ministry of Defence;
- The Pearse Jordan inquest – one of the longest running and most controversial coronial cases in Northern Ireland where Ian Skelt is junior Counsel to the Inquest;
- the inquests into the deaths of the seven British men killed in the Al-Quaeda siege of a gas plant at In Amenas in Algeria. Bridget Dolan QC was instructed as Counsel to the Inquest, while Katie Gollop QC acted for a widow of one of the men and Claire Watson represented the Metropolitan Police;
- the inquest into the death of Connor Sparrowhawk – Malcolm Fortune, Alan Jenkins, Michael Walsh and Oliver Williamson were instructed by four other interested persons;
- the inquest into the death of Raoul Moat – John Beggs QC represented Northumbria Police;
- the inquests following the 7th July 2005 London bombings John Beggs QC, James Watson QC, and Sarah Simcock
Our barristers have a wealth of experience of appearing in and chairing public and other inquiries into alleged failings by corporate and statutory bodies.
The high-profile public inquiry into the deaths at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust was chaired by Sir Robert Francis QC whilst some of the core participants were represented by Debra Powell QC, Paul Spencer, Pravin Fernando and Richard Partridge.
Currently Sir Robert Francis QC, Stephen Morley and Cecily White are acting in the Undercover Policing Inquiry, while John de Bono QC, Debra Powell QC , Gerry Boyle QC, David Lawson and James Berry are instructed in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
Other noteworthy inquiries where tenants have represented the inquiry panel or the core participants include:
- the Infected Blood Inquiry Debra Powell QC and Susanna Rickard
- the Leveson inquiry – John Beggs QC and James Berry were instructed on behalf of Surrey Police;
- the Freedom to Speak Up Review into whistleblowing in the NHS, chaired by Sir Robert Francis QC;
- the Northern Irish Statutory Inquiry into Hyponatraemia-related Deaths – Angus Moon QC, Katie Gollop QC and Malcolm Fortune represented interested persons whilst Bridget Dolan QC provided expert evidence on Coronial Law;
- the Baha Mousa inquiry into the death of detainees in Iraq;
- numerous other Health and Social Services inquiries into homicides by psychiatric patients (such as that following the Russell killings by Michael Stone);
- the Ladbroke Grove and Southall Rail Disasters; and
- the Marchioness ferry disaster inquiry.
Whether your organisation is conducting an internal investigation or facing external scrutiny from a regulator, Serjeants’ Inn barristers fully understand that this is a testing time.
We have a wealth of experience of representing commercial organisations, charities, public sector bodies and individuals involved in private and confidential investigations, judicial investigations such as public inquiries, disciplinary tribunals, courts and actual or potential external scrutiny by regulators ranging from the FCA to the SFO to the CQC.
We understand the pressures on decision makers and people on the ground that an investigation can generate, particularly if matters escalate and there is pressure of time.
For those wishing to investigate, we can:
- Draft terms of reference
- Provide an investigator who can set up your inquiry, collate and test the evidence test and make findings
- Write a robust report that will withstand scrutiny by regulators, stakeholders and the public
- Make recommendations that will future proof your organisation
- Assist with implementation
For those being investigated, experience and specialist legal knowledge have equipped us with the insight, tools, practical know how and expertise to give you targeted advice, buy time, set your strategy, prepare you for giving evidence, advocate for you and manage communications.
Please click here for a list of points to consider if your organisation is contemplating or conducting an internal investigation.
In addition to appearing in coroners’ courts, our members appear regularly in judicial review and s.13 proceedings arising from inquests in the Administrative Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Some recent examples include:
- In the matter of Hugh Jordan  UKSC (23.10.18). Supreme Court decision awaited on whether a claim for HRA damages for delay to investigation can be brought before the conclusion of the impugned inquest
- R (Adath Yisrosl Burial Society and anor) v HM Senior Coroner Inner North London (Costs)  EWHC 1286 (Admin). Representing the Senior Coroner on the issue of costs following a judicial review decision of her administrative policy for managing cases.
- In the matter of Theresa Jordan  NICA 34. Whether Art 2 requires the state to bear the burden of adducing evidence at an inquest to provide a convincing explanation for a death caused by police shooting.
- Moore v Senior Coroner for Devon  CO/1961/2017. Successful defeat of a cost claim brought against a Senior Coroner following compromised judicial review proceedings.
- Tainton v HM Coroner Preston  4 WLR 157. Whether the Coroner had correctly withdrawn causation from the jury as being an unsafe finding; whether Art2 nevertheless required admitted but non-causative shortcomings in care to be recorded
- Chambers v HM Coroner Preston  Inquest LR 1. Successful defeat of an application for a fresh Art 2 inquest on grounds of alleged procedural irregularity and absence of expert evidence.
24 Hour Urgent Advice
Our Inquest & Inquiries team provides a 24 hour service, 365 days a year to arrange for urgent advice and representation on applications including injunctions. For more details about our emergency service please click here.
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