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Grenfell: inquest or public inquiry?

Discussion in 'off topic' started by Seanm, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

    This has come up on the Grenfell thread but no answers so far.

    Sophie Khan, lawyer for those affected by the Lakanal House fire in 2009, was interviewed on Newsnight last night, arguing vehemently that an inquest (or inquests?) would be preferable by far to a public inquiry, because it would allow families to cross examine experts and get their own experts, because it would not be government led, and because a jury would be able to deliver its own verdict, regardless of what the government might think of it. She seems very suspicious of the decision to hold a public inquiry.

    Link to the interview below:

    Can any legal minds out there help make sense of this?
  2. tqineil

    tqineil Ubi fides ibi lux et robur

    there should be both clearly as per Hillsborough
  3. Cav

    Cav pfm Member

    I believe the Law requires inquests to be held whatever other enquiries are held.
  4. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    Whatever is chosen there needs to be a clear route to criminal prosecutions.
  5. deanf

    deanf pfm Member

    It is entirely possible Theresa May doesn't know the difference between an inquest and an inquiry, or even what's she's doing.
  6. Tony L

    Tony L Administrator

    It's entirely possible I don't either to be fair! By saying that I'm a record dealer, not PM.
  7. stevec67

    stevec67 pfm Member

    Inquests are carried out by coroners, AIUI they are about cause of death rather than circumstances surrounding. As a result it is "Mr X died at around 3am on Day Y in a house fire. Cause of death is confirmed as asphyxiation via smoke inhalation" or similar. Likewise "Mrs Y died as a result of excessive blood loss resulting from a stab wound inflicted with a sharp object of approximate dimensions XXX." Inquests are not about who held the knife, or how the fire started, but about what exactly killed a person. The rest of it is down to an enquiry, which may be criminal or otherwise.

    Edit - the inquest is the first thing that has to be done because it does of course impact on the facts that are later going to be used in any investigation. If there is a fire with fatalities and the victims die of smoke inhalation, that's one thing. If they have all been stabbed or shot first, then it's quite another. This is the coroner's job. Did the 90-year old in the nursing home shuffle off because she was 90 and it was about time, or did the doctor administer something that he shouldn't?
  8. dweezil

    dweezil pfm Member

    Both required surely?
  9. deanf

    deanf pfm Member

    Same here and I'm learning, I would expect the PM to have been briefed before speaking though.

    The families will want to know what happened to each of their relatives, we need to know if the safety standards are sufficient and then applied correctly, but we also need to ask ourselves serious questions about what led to this disaster. As per the OP, legal advice would be very welcome on how to achieve this.
  10. linnfomaniac83

    linnfomaniac83 I bet you can’t wheelie a unicycle!

    Both. There needs to be a very thorough and complete investigation. I think there needs to be an independent investigation by a team appointed by the local residents too (if this is possible, I don't know how these things work). I say this because if the local authority and government appoint their own investigators, there is a significant risk of a coverup.
  11. stevec67

    stevec67 pfm Member

    I think that you are right. An inquest is required for any unexpected/unexplained death. If I have been receiving medical attention for a terminal condition and eventually die, that's to be expected and there is a papertrail and medical record leading to the final events. I think that there is still an inquest in the case of accidental death, and certainly if a healthy person just fails to wake up one morning. I know that there was an inquest when a friend of mine was killed rock climbing. His abseil anchor failed in some way and he fell to his death. The coroner established that his injuries were consistent with a fall from a height and put that down as cause of death. The police established that there was no foul play, the mountain rescue service and my friend's climbing partner tried to establish what exactly had failed, but to no avail. To this day we don't know what failed, there was no piece of broken equipment and we can only assume that he failed to tie an adequate knot. But this is no concern of the coroner. (S)he is about "Mr X was engaged in rock climbing and while attempting to abseil he fell a distance of X to his death. Cause of death is multiple injuries consistent with a fall of this magnitude." Provided there is no foul play or obvious equipment failure it ends there, as hapened in this case. It's for the police to worry about whether he was pushed or whether his rope might be faulty.
  12. JensenHealey

    JensenHealey pfm Member

    We do not know what form this public enquiry will take - I daresay that ministers themselves do not yet either. There are several possible forms... Here from :

    What is a Public Inquiry?

    430. There are different forms a public inquiry might take. The House of Commons Library standard note on public inquiries states:

    The term 'public inquiry' has a very broad meaning, and the history of the British government shows that there are in fact a number of forms of 'inquiry' available, designed, in principle to fulfil specific functions. Sometimes the wish may be simply to establish the relevant facts, leaving their interpretation, the allocation of 'blame' and recommendations for the future to other agencies such as Ministers, Parliament or the courts. In other circumstances it may be thought desirable that the 'inquiry' itself undertake these broader, perhaps more delicate tasks. A prime purpose of some inquiries may also be to allay public (and Parliamentary) disquiet about some public issue or a 'scandal'.[639]
    431. The relevant Minister usually establishes the inquiry format, who heads it, its membership, its terms of reference and the form in which the report is made. An inquiry headed by a judge or senior lawyer is often called a 'judicial inquiry' although this is simply a descriptive term.

    432. Currently the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921 allows a public inquiry to be established with all the powers of the High Court as regards the examination of witnesses, production of documents and summoning of witnesses. Such an inquiry may only be established following a resolution of both Parliament. In the more than eighty years since it came into force there have been just 25 inquiries set up under the 1921 Act, the two most recent being the Harold Shipman Tribunal of Inquiry set up in 2001 and the Bloody Sunday Tribunal of Inquiry set up in 1998.

    433. An often-used alternative to formal public inquiries under the 1921 Act has been departmental inquiries set up by ministers. Such inquiries are usually advisory in nature and their exact remit is set out in terms of reference by the relevant minister. Recent examples include 'Lessons learnt from the Foot and Mouth Disease Outbreak Inquiry' (9 August 2001) and the Inquiry into the Soham Murders (June 2004). The Review by Nicholas Blake QC, which we consider later in this report, also fits the definition of a departmental inquiry.

    434. Many departmental inquiries are classed as judicial inquiries because they are conducted by a judge. Although their procedures vary from case to case, in general they are investigative in character. They have no power to compel witnesses to attend but the lack of statutory power does not seem to be a major hindrance to their work. As Sir Michael Bichard, Chairman of the inquiry into the Soham murders said:

    The Inquiry does not have statutory powers, but if I find that that hinders me in any way in my investigation or if I believe that an individual or organisation is not cooperating fully, then I will return to the Home Secretary and ask for such statutory powers, and he has made it clear to me that they will be made available.[640]
    435. Examples of such judicial inquiries are the Scott Inquiry into Matrix Churchill (1992) and the Hutton Inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly.

    436. The current framework for inquiries will be revised by the Inquiries Bill, currently before Parliament. The Government's stated aim for the Bill is to provide a framework under which future inquiries can operate effectively and produce practicable recommendations in reasonable time and at a reasonable cost. The Bill repeals the 1921 Act and the statutory basis for inquiries and makes provision for Ministers to set the terms of reference of an inquiry and appoint the chairman and other members. It also gives the Minister power to enable the inquiry to summon witnesses, and to decide whether evidence is heard in public. The Minister may also decide the extent to which the report itself is made public.[641]
  13. maxflinn

    maxflinn pfm Member

    Ha :)
  14. Vinniemac

    Vinniemac pfm Member

  15. Seanm

    Seanm pfm Member

  16. Alex S

    Alex S carbon based lifeform

  17. Cav

    Cav pfm Member

  18. MikeMA

    MikeMA pfm Member

    As well as establishing the cause of death, I believe a coronor can also make recommendations, based on evidence presented at the inquest, to help avoid future deaths in similar circumstances.
  19. rally

    rally pfm Member

    The problem with recommendations is that, that's all they are, a recommendation and nothing more.
  20. Alex S

    Alex S carbon based lifeform

    Yes, and there a political line is drawn: a responsible and caring government acts upon such recommendations.

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