Jones v HM Coroner for Gwent and others  EWHC 3178 (Admin) 5 Nov.15
The Divisional Court this week made clear the limits of s.13 Coroners Act 1988 when seeking to overturn and inquest. Where Judicial Review is the correct vehicle to challenge the decision of a Coroner then the failure to bring such a claim in good time should not be circumvented by an application for a fresh inquest under s.13.
Elberte v Latvia ECtHR App. No. 61243/08 13 April 2015
Next month the Human Transplantation (Wales) Act 2013 comes in to force. Described as the most significant piece of legislation passed by the Welsh Assembly, it will make Wales the first UK country to introduce a ‘soft opt-out’ system for organ and tissue donation. From 1 December 2015 a deemed consent system will operate for organ donation where the presumption will be that people aged 18 or over, who have been resident in Wales for over 12 months, want to donate their organs at their death, unless they have specifically objected.
This Act has laudable objectives and is anticipated to save countless lives through a 25% rise in the availability of organs for transplant.
However, those who favour an opt-in system warn of the excesses that can happen if state control and oversight of such a system is lax. Such risks were shown in stark detail in a recent European Court of Human Rights decision involving Latvia, where shocking abuse of a ‘presumed consent’ system was revealed.
Smith v HM Coroner for Cornwall (2015) 22/10/2015
The important role a coroner’s inquest has to play in elucidating factors relevant to the death in a way that might then allow for the greater protection of the wider public is exemplified by this recent decision of the Divisional Court. Inquests into two deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning were overturned where full information regarding the knowledge and correction of a design fault in the gas cooker thought to be responsible had neither been available nor explored.
Wilson v HM Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull  EWHC 2561 (Admin)
“Fairness in an inquest must be fashioned in an environment where there are no pleadings and in which those given leave to appear as interested persons do not have a case to put. The evidence at inquests often takes an unexpected turn and calls for a degree of flexibility in the procedure to be followed as a consequence. The rules of evidence applied in criminal and civil proceedings do not apply. Questions of fairness to those involved in inquest proceedings must be judged against all these essential features and also in the context that the statutory scheme prohibits a finding of criminal liability on the part of a named person, or of civil liability” -Burnett LJ
Mr Wilson, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon, applied for judicial review of part of the coroner’s conclusions in relation to the deaths of three of his patients having undergone cardiac surgery at his hands.
Thompson v HM Assistant Coroner for Durham  EWHC 1781 (Admin)
Kristian Thompson was 19 years old when he died. He was a detained patient in a hospital secure unit under s.3 Mental Health Act. On the day of his death he had suffered an episode of incontinence and went to shower. He was found in the shower, collapsed on the floor with the shower running. He did not recover.
At the inquest in November 2012 the assistant coroner returned an open verdict, recording the medical cause of death as “unascertained“. The pathologist and consultant neuro-pathologist involved in the post-mortem and the consultant physician who had been involved in Kristian’s treatment post-collapse considered two possible causes of death (sudden and unexpected death in epilepsy (‘SUDEP’) and sudden adult death syndrome (‘SADS’). In the absence of an ante-mortem diagnosis of epilepsy the doctors were unable to come to any probable conclusion. However, the pathologist stated that he would alter his opinion on the cause of death if an expert clinician could diagnose epilepsy at any time.
There had been insufficiency of inquiry such that it was necessary and desirable in the interests of justice to hold a fresh inquest.