Regina 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 when feelings are running high and the spectators are emotionally involved and vocal. Once again it should not be forgotten that an inquest is a fact finding exercise and not a method of apportioning guilt. The procedure and rules of evidence which are suitable for one are unsuitable for the other. In an inquest it should never be forgotten that there are no parties, there is no indictment, there is no prosecution, there is no defence, there is no trial, simply an attempt to establish facts. It is an inquisitorial process, a process of investigation quite unlike a criminal trial where the prosecutor accuses and the accused defends, the judge holding the balance or the reins whichever metaphor one chooses to use.’
and ‘the function of an inquest is to seek out and record as many of the facts concerning the death as [the] public interest requires.’ The Broderick Committee exhaustively considered the role of the coroner’s inquest in modern society. The committee identified the following grounds of public interest which they believed that a coroner’s inquiry should serve:
(1) To determine the medical cause of death;
(ii) To allay such rumours or suspicion;
(iii) to draw attention to the existence of circumstances which, if unremedied, might lead to further deaths;
To advance medical knowledge;
(v) To preserve the legal inteersts of the deceased person’s family, heirs or other interested parties.
However ‘It is not the function of the Coroner’s inquest to provide a forum for attempts to gather evidence for pending or future criminal or civil proceedings.”

Lord Lane CJ
[1982] 126 SJ 625
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedIn the Matter of Captain Christopher John Kelly Admn 14-Jun-1996
The deceased was killed by ‘friendly fire’ during a night exercise in Kenya. A verdict of accidental death was returned, and a fresh inquest was sought particularly in the light of a statement from a fellow officer.
Held: The emergence of . .
CitedIn Re Neal (Coroner: Jury) QBD 17-Nov-1995
The father of the deceased sought to have the coroner quash the inquest. His daughter had died in Spain from carbon monoxide poisoning, apparently emanated from a faulty water heater in the apartment in which she had stayed. Her body had been . .
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 . .
CitedHurst, Regina (on the Application of) v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis v London Northern District Coroner HL 28-Mar-2007
The claimant’s son had been stabbed to death. She challenged the refusal of the coroner to continue with the inquest with a view to examining the responsibility of any of the police in having failed to protect him.
Held: The question amounted . .
CitedO’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 . .
CitedWilkinson, Regina (on The Application of) v HM Coroner for The Greater Manchester South District Admn 11-Oct-2012
The court was asked whether evidence of the commission of the criminal offence of causing death by careless driving contrary to section 2B of the 1988 Act is capable of justifying a verdict of ‘unlawful killing’ at an inquest.
Held: The . .
ApprovedMcKerr 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 . .
CitedSecretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs v Assistant Deputy Coroner for Inner North London Admn 27-Jun-2013
The coroner was to hold an inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a prominent Russian exile. The Secretary of State issued a public interest immunity certificate in respect of several documents sought for the inquest, which, in part, the . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Leading Case

Updated: 01 November 2021; Ref: scu.187755