Understanding inquests - shensmith barristers

Understanding Inquests, with Stephen Harvey QC – ShenSmith Barristers

 

What is an inquest?

Inquests and public enquiries are unlike ordinary court hearings, because, as their name implies, they are inquisitorial proceedings, whose primary purpose is to investigate a situation and to arrive at a conclusion. Whether that conclusion concerns the cause of someone’s death in the case of inquest, or a government appointed inspector’s recommendation to a government body, in a relation to a matter of public interest.

Why are inquests held?

Inquests are held in order to establish the cause of death in situations, where the death are not natural causes. Those who become involved in inquests are obviously the bereaved of the person, who has very sadly died, and the person who may be found have been wholly or partially responsible for that death. For example, the driver of the car involved in an accident, in which the decease died. Whichever side the individual is on, they will undoubtedly have a vested interest in the outcome; whether it’ll be an inquest or enquiry, the adversarial skills of an experienced barrister in cross-examining witnesses and making speeches (what lawyers call submissions) to the coroner in an inquest, the inspector of an enquiry, can make or break the case.

Can I bring a barrister into an inquest?

The huge advantage of being represented in either type of the hearing is that the experienced advocate can bring a professional and objective detachment to the case; unaffected by understandable emotion affecting those, who are personally involved, and unaffected by any personal agendas. The independent and experienced advocate is able to put the most persuasive case before the hearing to the very best advantage of the side that he is representing. It cannot be overstated that effective representation during the course of the inquest in particular, can be pivotal if not determinative as to the likelihood of any subsequence proceedings, particular of a criminal nature.

Can an inquest lead to a prosecution?

If a prosecution does follow, then the way which the evidence unfolded and was addressed before the inquest, can itself have a very real and direct bearing upon any subsequence trial. There may also be consequential civil claims by the estate of the decease person, or an injured employee who’s seeking damages. In both inquests and enquiries, continuity of representation is obviously a vital element. And if the case becomes a criminal prosecution, it will involve considerable adversarial skills being required before the jury.

How can I prepare for an inquest?

I have the resources of a team of highly experienced investigators from a variety of backgrounds, who can assist under my direction with the preparation of any case that goes before an inquest. I can assist you with the selection and briefing of any necessary experts that are required.