O’Connor, Regina (On the Application of) v HM Coroner for District of Avon and Another: Admn 7 May 2009

Two children died when their father jumped with them from a hotel balcony. The father had been acquitted in Crete of manslaughter after evidence of his psychiatric condition. The applicant now challenged the English coroner’s verdict of unlawful killing.
Held: If the trial had been in England, a coroner could not make a finding inconsistent with the trial verdict. The court emphasised the difficulty of this case: ‘The procedure at an inquest does not accord a would be defendant the safeguards that he would have in a criminal trial. There is no defendant and therefore no one upon whom the relevant burden of proof might lie. It is not fair that a person should risk the stigma of a finding of unlawful killing – even if the verdict technically conceals identity – without those safeguards and without the right to have deployed on his behalf the case that he was legally insane when he perpetrated the otherwise unlawful act. Crucially, we consider that the relevant direction which the coroner would have to give to a jury would be contorted and unsatisfactory.’ Insanity, properly raised, has to be disproved to the criminal standard to sustain a verdict of unlawful killing. The coroner had not adequately considered the father’s mental condition, and this court could not itself make that judgment. The case was remitted for further consideration.

Dobbs J
[2009] EWHC 854 (Admin), [2011] 1 QB 106, [2009] 4 All ER 1020, [2010] 2 WLR 1299
Coroner’s Act 1988 11(5)(b)
England and Wales
CitedRegina v West London Coroner ex parte Gray CA 1988
Before a coroner’s jury could reach a verdict of unlawful killing, it had to be satisfied ‘that the act or omission of a single person must amount to unlawful conduct which was a substantial cause of death’, although Rule 42 of the Coroners Rules . .
CitedRegina v Wolverhampton Coroner ex parte McCurbin CA 1990
The judicial review test is not simply whether there has been an error of law, but also whether the error has or may have resulted in a wrong verdict being entered. . .
CitedRegina v North Humberside and Scunthorpe Coroner ex parte Jamieson CA 27-Apr-1994
The deceased prisoner had hanged himself. He had been a known suicide risk, and his brother said that the authorities being so aware, the death resulted from their lack of care. The inquest heard in full the circumstannces leading up to the death, . .
CitedDirector of Public Prosecutions v Newbury and Jones HL 12-May-1976
The two teenage defendants pushed a stone slab from a bridge onto an oncoming train. The slab went through the window and killed the guard. They appealed convictions for manslaughter.
Held: The appeals were dismissed. An unlawful act can found . .
CitedRegina v Larkin CCA 1943
There may be involuntary manslaughter, if the accused intentionally did an act which was unlawful and dangerous and that act inadvertently caused death. Humphreys J said: ‘Where the act which a person is engaged in performing is unlawful, then if at . .
CitedRegina v Lamb CA 1967
The defendant actor had shot his best friend when, in jest and without any intention of doing any harm or firing a bullet, he pulled the trigger of a revolver. There were no bullets opposite the barrel and he had not realised that the mechanism . .
CitedDaniel M’Naghten’s Case HL 1843
Daniel M’Naghten suffered from a mental disorder under which he believed that he was being persecuted by various bodies in authority, including the Tory Party. He sought to kill the Tory Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, but shot and killed instead . .
CitedRegina v South London Coroner ex parte Thompson 8-Jul-1982
The court discussed the function of the coroner and his inquest.
Lord Lane CJ said: ‘The coroner’s task in a case such as this is a formidable one, and no one would dispute that; that is quite apart from the difficulties which inevitably arise . .
CitedRegina v Sullivan HL 1984
The burden of establishing insanity in a criminal trial is on the defence on the balance of probabilities.
Lord Diplock said: ‘I agree with what was said by Devlin J. in Reg. v. Kemp (1957) 1 QB 399, 407, that ‘mind’ in the M’Naghten Rules is . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Coroners, Crime

Updated: 02 November 2021; Ref: scu.341858