Regina v HM Attorney-General for Northern Ireland and Another Ex Parte Devine: CANI 1992

An inquest was held into three deaths thought to be at the hands of British soldiers. The coroner had admitted written evidence from statements taken by British officers on the basis that the makers of the statements were not compellable as witnesses.
Held: Judicial review of the coroner’s decision was refused.
Hutton LJ said: ‘in Nash’s case the Court of Appeal was strongly influenced by the consideration that at that time a highway authority was not responsible for nonfeasance. Therefore the court considered that it was not the intention of Parliament to make a highway authority liable for an accident where that highway authority was not guilty of misfeasance but only of nonfeasance. Accordingly the court interpreted the word liabilities in such a way as not to make the rural district council responsible in damages for a danger which it did not itself create.’
and ‘We accept counsel’s submissions that for the two reasons which he advanced the statements of soldiers A, B and C do not come within the ambit of Rule 17. But we reject his other submission that Rule 17 applies to all documentary evidence and that as the statements do not fall within it the rule prohibits their admission in evidence. We consider that Rule 17 only applies to the type of document described in paragraph (1) viz a document where ‘a coroner considers that the attendance as a witness by the maker of the document is unnecessary’ . . In other words the document appears to the coroner to be formal and uncontroversial. The statements of A, B and C are clearly not such documents and therefore Rule 17 does not apply to them. Accordingly, Rule 17 does not abrogate the ordinary rule that it was open to the coroner to admit the statements, notwithstanding that they were hearsay.’


Hutton LJ


(1992) NI 74


Coroners (Practice and Procedure) Rules (NI) 1980 17


CitedNash v Rochford Rural District Council CA 1917
A claim was made against the local highway authority for personal injury resulting from the defective construction of a highway drain. The plaintiff failed to prove that the defendant highway authority had been responsible for the construction of . .
CitedMcKerr v Armagh Coroner HL 1990
It is for the coroner to decide how to adduce the necessary evidence as to death. Lord Goff discussed Rule 17 of the 1980 Rules: ‘Nor, in my opinion, does the mere fact that a rule restricts the power of a coroner as to the evidence which he may . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromRegina v HM Attorney-General for Northern Ireland and Another Ex Parte Devine, Same Ex Parte Breslin HL 1-Apr-1992
The Coroner had held an inquest into the deaths of three persons who had been shot by soldiers. The Coroner had admitted statements made by the soldiers under Rule 17 of the Northern Ireland Rules. Those statements had been produced in evidence by . .
CitedNational Grid Gas Plc, Regina (on the Application of) v The Environment Agency Admn 17-May-2006
The claimant sought a judicial review of the decision to hold them responsible for necessary works of remediation. They were statutory successors to British Gas Corporation.
Held: The legislation clearly attempted to hold the contaminator . .
CitedAssistant Deputy Coroner of Inner West London v Paul and Another, Regina on the Application of CA 28-Nov-2007
The coroner appealed a judicial review granted after he allowed into evidence, hearsay evidence contained in a written statemnent from a witness who could not attend the inquest.
Held: Rule 37 does not allow the admission of a document, even . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Northern Ireland, Coroners

Updated: 14 May 2022; Ref: scu.242438