Week 6: A breath of fresh air in the inquiry process #107days

Final post this week is an update from Sara:

Bit of a shocker a couple of weeks ago when we were informed by Charlotte, our solicitor, that Sloven were going to ask for a judge to be appointed to conduct LB’s inquest. She explained how the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 allows a High Court Judge to be appointed to hear an inquest in certain circumstances. The Chief Coroner has to make a request of the Lord Chief Justice, who in turn has to consult with the Lord Chancellor, and the Lord Chief Justice can appoint a High Court Judge to sit as a Deputy Coroner who can hear inquests alone or with a jury. There is no specific guidance as to when this should happen but it is relatively rare and tends to happen in cases involving matters of national security (eg. the Litvinenko Inquiry) or when the inquest may be exceptionally legally and factually complex (eg. the ongoing Hillsborough inquests).

LB, love him, was not really a matter of national security (though this request would put a bounce in his step forevermore) and really it ain’t exceptionally complex what happened. Our hearts sank because of the delay that it could cause. The inquest is currently arranged to start on October 5th and the thought of it being put back even further was fairly harrowing.

We were all pretty baffled why and on what grounds (two separate things) Sloven would make this request. The what grounds was answered by the five page letter to the Chief Coroner, dated 24 April, which argued that LB’s inquest may well have far reaching implications for the care of young learning disabled adults in the future. Well here in the Justice shed we certainly hope it does. That is the aim of the campaign after all. The letter went on to detail and provide links to our social media activity including Norman Lamb’s Lib Dem Spring conference speech.

Bizarrely, having argued against an Article 2 inquest in an earlier pre-inquest review meeting on the basis that there have been so many reviews into LB’s death, Sloven’s solicitors made the case in the letter that the volume of evidence gathered by the various reviews will make the inquest legally and factually complex. Ho hum.

The now familiar heavy weight we seem to carry with us increased (again) and we steeled ourselves for further, relentless, delay.  Three days later, remarkably, the Chief Coroner replied turning down the request. He acknowledged that the inquest may have wide reaching implications for the care of learning disabled people, but he didn’t think it would be exceptionally complex and bringing in a judge would involve delay. Wow. It was like someone had opened the door to the musty, dark, dank old cell we’ve been stuck in for 21 months now and blasted a load of fresh air into it. A response/action in three days? That is exactly how the system should work. The door shut again but we were left feeling brighter and with the most poignant typo in the letter:

The Chief Connor has read your letter about the events surrounding the sad death…


I hope LB is somewhere, somehow. Because his dreams continue to come true in the most fantastical ways. 

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