Managing tricky inquest applications: Anonymity, bad character and propensity evidence

Procedural Notes from the Birmingham Pub Bombings and Deepcut Inquests

We all like a free helping hand, and so at the UKIL Blog we are happy to be able to share with the blogosphere the recent wisdom of two ‘Judge Coroners’ who have drawn up route maps to determining complicated procedural issues arising in their inquests.

None of what follows is formal guidance of course, but, practical tips from others’ experience are always useful, and coroners and inquest advocates might find these notes provide a helpful starting point when dealing with such matters, particularly when they have not, as yet, been addressed in the official ‘Chief Coroner’s Guidance’[1].

Anonymity of witnesses 

In the Birmingham Pub Bombings Inquests the issue of anonymity of witnesses arose. Sir Peter Thornton QC produced an introductory note for all Interested Persons, to be used as a starting point for discussion/submissions on a specific anonymity application (here). It helpfully suggests how the application should be approached and summarises the three legal tests to apply. Although any Coroner hearing an anonymity application should also consider the decision in Dyer v Assistant Coroner for West Yorkshire EWHC 2897 (Admin) 30 October 2019 (and our blog piece here) which post dates this note.

Propensity evidence and bad character

In the Deepcut Inquest into the death of Sean Benton, HH Peter Rook QC had to consider a number of applications to admit propensity evidence and evidence of matters going to witnesses’ bad character.   He made a procedural direction regarding how such matters were to be approached (drawing upon the principles underpinning s.100 CJA 2003 as applied in the criminal jurisdiction) and which also regulated the timing and notification requirements of such applications within a long running inquest.

The usual legal ‘health warning’ applies – none of these notes should be taken to represent legal advice, but they may be useful food for thought in your own cases.



[1] Although see Guidance no.25 on ‘Coroners and the Media’ considering the principles of open justice more widely.