Q: My son went for a night out in town when he was on Army leave and ended up in the police station where he tragically died. There has been a police inquiry but I don’t know the outcome. Now there is going to be an inquest. How can I find out what people say happened so I don’t have to hear it for the first time at the inquest? Will the Coroner explore the events leading to his death?
A: The inquest is just to confirm the ‘who’ ‘what’ ‘where’ ‘when’ and ‘how’ of the death. The ‘how’ will only be examined as far as giving the Coroner enough information to return one of the allowed forms of verdict. These include: death as a result of natural causes; death caused by industrial disease, drugs, lack of care, neglect or self-neglect; death caused by suicide, accident/misadventure; unlawful killing; an open verdict when the evidence does not reveal the cause of death. In your son’s case possible verdicts that might be investigated could be natural causes, lack of care by the police, accident/misadventure or even unlawful killing.
The only way to find out what has been previously said about your son’s death would be to obtain disclosure of the written evidence and statements before the inquest. You can request this from the Coroner on payment of a fee. The Coroner will only investigate the case as far as is needed for one of the set verdicts to be reached, which may not establish what happened in the lead-up to your son’s death. If you wished to make a claim against the Police that would be a job for a different Court. Given that you cannot at this stage know what the verdict might be, you should seek legal representation as soon as possible.