In re Rapier (Deceased): QBD 1988

A young prisoner had been found dead in his cell hanging. A report suggested that he may have been sniffing solvents. The coroner himself initiated proceedings both under the Coroners’ Act and for judicial review to quash the inquisition over which he had presided in the light of new evidence which had later come to light. There was no respondent to the application, merely counsel appointed as amicus curiae.
Held: The application was granted. Amongst the ‘compelling grounds for ordering a fresh inquest’, were that ‘the coroner himself believes it to be necessary and has indeed initiated the application’. It is the coroner himself who must seek a new inquest, bearing in mind the reasonable concerns of the family of the deceased. When the court considers ordering a new inquest, it must look at the likelihood of a different verdict.
Woolf LJ said that it was not necessary to show that it was likely that a different verdict would be reached to order a new inquest, only that a different verdict might be reached: ‘This appears to be a much more satisfactory approach because, in many cases, and I would include this case as an example, it will be quite impossible to say what will be the effect of the new evidence. The effect which it will have will only be known after the witnesses have given their evidence and have been questioned. They may then be believed or they may not be believed. However, whatever the outcome, it still may be in the interests of justice that their evidence should be explored in public before a jury.’
Simon Brown J said: ‘In many cases it will be quite impossible for the reviewing court . . to form any sensible view upon whether the new evidence creates a probability or only a possibility that a different verdict would be arrived at upon a fresh inquisition. That would generally depend upon the precise evidence eventually given and the credibility of the witnesses that give it . . this is not to say, however, that it will not generally be of the first importance to consider so far as possible the likelihood or otherwise of a fresh inquest arriving at a different verdict. That will always be relevant, often critical and sometimes wholly decisive, not least in ‘new facts or evidence’ cases.’


Woolf LJ, Simon Brown J


[1988] 1 QB 26


Coroners act 1988 13


England and Wales

Cited by:

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CitedParkin v HM Coroner for North Lincolnshire and Grimsby District Admn 23-Mar-2005
The family appealed against an open verdict. Her son was found hanged at school. The coroner felt unable to be sure that he had committed suicide. He had been looking forward to a new job as a theatre technician.
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CitedBloom v HM Assistant Deputy Coroner for the Northern District of London and Another Admn 20-Dec-2004
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CitedSutovic, Regina (on the Application Of) v HM Coroner for North London Admn 17-May-2006
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Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 26 May 2022; Ref: scu.179773