On 7 March 2018 Katie Gollop QC gave oral evidence to the Joint Select Committee on Human Rights in support of the provision of public funding for families at inquests.   


A briefing paper provided to assist the committee, which was prepared by Katie in consultation with some other barristers from Serjeants' Inn chambers, is reproduced below

All barristers at Serjeants’ Inn Chambers are independent, self-employed, sole practitioners. For that reason, Serjeants’ Inn does not have a collective view and the views expressed here are personal. That said, a number of barristers (including two who sit as Assistant Coroners) have contributed thoughts and/or provided examples of inquests (see the appendix at the end) that inform the question: are human rights being enforced in the coronial justice system?


  1. Inquests, properly conducted and where the conclusions are heeded by those with the power to effect change, save lives.

  2. They hold organisations and individuals to account publicly. They expose wrongdoing by the state. They identify and record the facts.

  3. In so doing, inquests:
    1. enable next of kin to understand what happened. And having understood, to grieve.
    2. dispel rumours and conspiracies.
    3. promote public confidence in state agencies – that there was no wrongdoing or that lessons have been learned so no one else will die in the same circumstances.

  1. Lives are saved by the inquest:
    1. Identifying defective systems, policies and procedures.
    2. Identifying individual and organisational practice that is lacking.
    3. Reporting areas where change is required to prevent future deaths.
    4. Providing publicly available information about the circumstances of deaths so that patterns and clusters can be seen.

His Honour Peter Rook QC has decided to hear the forthcoming inquest into the death of Sean Benton without a jury. Private Benton died from gunshot wounds at Deepcut Barracks in 1995, the first of four deaths at the barracks that have caused enduring public interest and led to numerous investigations. The original inquest, which took place only weeks after his death, was quashed by the High Court in 2016 and new hearings will begin in January 2018.

His Honour Peter Rook QC, formerly Senior Circuit Judge at the Old Bailey, was appointed as Nominated Coroner by the Lord Chief Justice. He was invited by the family of Sean Benton to exercise his discretion to hear the fresh inquest with a jury. His detailed reasons have been published and will be of interest to inquest practitioners, especially those working in military deaths and in cases likely to attract press coverage. They can be viewed here.

Bridget Dolan QC and Jamie Mathieson are instructed as Counsel to the inquest. John Beggs QC and Cecily White have been instructed for the inquest on behalf of Surrey Police, and Paul Spencer of Serjeants' Inn Chambers is instructed to represent a medical professional working at the barracks.

His Hon Peter Rook, Q.C. has appointed Bridget Dolan QC and Jamie Mathieson as Counsel to the Inquest into the death of Private Geoff Gray. This is the third fresh inquest into a death of a trainee at Deepcut Barracks in Surrey.  It follows the inquests into the deaths of Ms Cheryl James and Mr Sean Benton.

The inquest hearings will commence in 2019.  At the next pre-inquest review hearing, which will be held on Friday 20th July 2018, the judge will hear the family's application for a jury.

His Hon Peter Rook, Q.C. has appointed Bridget Dolan QC and Jamie Mathieson as Counsel to the Inquest into the death of Private Sean Benton. This is the second fresh inquest into a death of a trainee at Deepcut Barracks, Surrey in 1995.

The inquest is listed to commence in 2018.  At a pre-inquest review hearing held on Friday 16th June 2017 the judge set out the scope of the inquest which can be found  here

The Judge-Coroner, HHJ Loraine-Smith, has now completed his investigation and inquests into the deaths of 30 British nationals who were killed in the terrorist attack at the beach resort of Sousse in Tunisia on 26th June 2015.

His conclusions, that all victims were unlawfully killed, were handed down on 28 February and are attached here.

Claire Watson of Serjeants' Inn was instructed on behalf of the Metropolitan Police, who were are assisting the Coronial investigation. Claire also represented the Metropolitan Police in the inquests relating to the In Amenas terrorist attacks in January 2013.

The Inquest Book:  The Law of Coroners and Inquests

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Cecily White acted for Essex Police in the Article 2 inquest into the tragic death of Eystna Blunnie, who was killed by her former partner.  The jury made no criticisms of the police response and returned a conclusion of unlawful killing.

Ms Blunnie’s father, Kevin Blunnie, commented:

“We feel a full and proper investigation into the facts around our daughter and her unborn child’s death have now been carried out.”

Click here for coverage from the BBC.

On 26 June 2015 38 people were killed in a terrorist attack whilst on holiday in Sousse, Tunisia.   Claire Watson has been retained to act in this inquest held at the Royal Courts of Justice which is expected to last for seven weeks.  The Metropolitan Police are assisting the Coroner, HHJ Loraine-Smith, with his investigation into the deaths of the 30 British nationals who died.

Claire also represented the Metropolitan Police in the inquests relating to the In Amenas terrorist attacks in January 2013.

Bridget Dolan represented the parents of Sally Mays at the inquest into her death in October 2015.  The Senior Coroner for Hull found that the decision by senior psychiatric nursing staff to refuse Sally a hospital bed when she was in obvious need of admission, was an “unconscionable and quixotic decision” following a “lamentable”,  “perfunctory and slipshod assessment” of Sally.  


Essential Inquest Law Update

Serjeants' Inn Chambers is pleased to be hosting two seminars by Bridget Dolan QC and Briony Ballard in October 2016.  

As well as being experienced inquest counsel and Assistant Coroners, Bridget and Briony also edit the Inquest Law Reports.

These practically focused seminars will provide a refresher on the recent law and are primarily aimed at solicitors who represent interested persons at inquests.

The seminars provide an essential update on important cases for coronial law over the past year and consider how the CJA and recently decided cases impact upon practice in the Coroner’s Court.

Issues covered will include:

  • Art 2 and non causative failings – has Lewis been side-stepped (Speck; Tainton)
  • Juries and Jury Directions (Fullick; LF; Hamilton-Jackson
  • Natural Causes deaths in detention (Tyrrell)
  • Reporting restrictions (Ewing v Cardiff Crown Court; V v Associated Newspapers)
  • Challenging inquests, delay and damages (Jones; Jordan; Burke-Monerville)
  • Re-opening inquests (Flower)

11th October 2016

Venue: Serjeants' Inn Chambers, 85 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1AE
6.00pm - 7.30pm (1.5 CPD points) with champagne and canapés to follow.


12th October 2015

Venue: tba
6.00pm - 7.30pm (1.5 CPD points) with champagne and canapés to follow.

The free places on these seminars are filling fast  - if you would like to attend please email Jon Comlay, client care manager, at eventsThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.