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.   

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/joint-select/human-rights-committee/

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?

IF THE DECEASED IS BEYOND JUSTICE, WHY DOES AN INQUEST MATTER?

  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 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

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.

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.