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Public Inquiries and Inquests

Olliers Public Inquiry and Inquest Team

Olliers has many years of experience of individuals involved in inquests or appearing as witnesses or core participants in public inquiries. We advise and represent throughout all stages of the process.

What is the difference between a Public Inquiry and an Inquest?

A public inquiry is often held following an event which causes or is capable of causing public concern. Public inquiries are usually brought after a death (or multiple deaths) as a way to learn from any mistakes so that change can be implemented. They are also a way of trying to obtain answers about what happened – they are a way to hold institutions to account for their actions. Public inquiries can to be highly emotive and attract large scale media coverage. At the conclusion of the inquiry, a report will be published setting out what the inquiry has determined and their recommendations.

Inquests are intended to establish how, when and where someone has died. They are not like criminal trials; nor are they meant to be a process to apportion blame. They are fact finding inquiries conducted by a coroner usually in order to establish the cause of someone’s death, and sometimes the wider circumstances surrounding it.

An inquiry can have a much broader remit than an inquest. Both will examine the circumstances in which the deceased died, but an inquiry can go further with its investigation. Cases can start as inquests but turn in to inquiries.

How can Olliers help me at a Public Inquiry?

Whether you’re a witness, core participant or professionally involved in an inquiry, our team at Olliers is perfectly placed to guide you through what is always a complex and challenging process. If funding for representation is not available from insurers, your employer or public funding (the latter is highly restricted), we can assist you at highly competitive private rates.

We can help with:

  • whether there is likely to be an inquiry
  • whether to apply to be an ‘core participant’ in the inquiry
  • witness summonses
  • your right to see the evidence
  • the provision of witness statements
  • what will be made public if an inquiry takes place
  • challenging decisions made by the independent chair
  • instructing expert advocates to appear at court for you
  • how to protect your interests if you are concerned about giving evidence
  • advice about press coverage and the public nature of giving evidence at an inquiry
  • how to deal with other investigations such as those of the police, the IOPC or the Care Quality Commission
  • funding options for representation

Pubic Inquiry FAQs

When are Inquests held?

Inquests must be held where the coroner is made aware that a body is within her or his area and there is reason to suspect that:

  • the deceased has died a violent or unnatural death; or
  • the cause of death is unknown; or
  • the deceased died whilst in custody or otherwise in state detention.

In many cases, the coroner will not need to hold an inquest, because investigations are made that are able to establish a natural cause of death. Those investigations may involve liaising with police, talking to family members, taking statements from those involved in medical care and perhaps ordering a post mortem to be done. These inquiries can take time. We are able to advise families who would like some guidance as to how the system works.

Coroners and their staff generally strive to involve families and to explain how investigations are progressing. However, for those involved, the process can be confusing and daunting. It can be particularly distressing for those who have lost a loved one or who have been involved in a traumatic incident that has led to a death.

Which parties can be represented at Inquests?

If there is to be an inquest, our inquest lawyers specialise in representing families, witnesses, organisations or employees of organisations that may be called to assist the coroner in her or his enquiry. We ensure that our clients’ interests are fully represented during those inquests. We will assist you in deciding whether or not you ought to apply for ‘interested person’’ status, which in turn means you will be entitled to see much of the documentary evidence used in the inquest and have your lawyer ask questions during the hearing itself. We will keep you involved and informed and we will be your robust voice in court.

For families, the inquest may be the main opportunity to ask questions as to how a loved one may have died. There may be many areas of concern about which you want to know more. We are experienced in acting for those who want their questions answered, including when agents of the state have been involved in a death and families want to know the wider circumstances of what may have contributed to that death – known as ‘Article 2’ inquests.

For others who appear as witnesses, the appearance at the inquest may be of very real importance. Whilst inquests are not held so as to attribute blame to individuals, in reality there may be much at stake for those compelled to appear.

Olliers Specialist Inquest Team

At Olliers, our inquest team specialises in representing those who may have been the focus of a criminal investigation and who therefore may be required to give evidence at a subsequent inquest. Inquests often take place after a criminal investigation, but can also reach conclusions that trigger a second criminal investigation into a death, even when the first resulted in no criminal charges. This makes effective, robust and proactive legal representation at the inquest particularly important. Our inquest lawyers have represented individuals who have initially faced criminal charges, as well as custody staff where there has been a death in custody, security staff involved in deportations, police doctors and medical staff. We also act for custody staff who may be involved in an IOPC investigation following a death in custody.

How can Olliers help me in relation to an Inquest?

We can assist you with the following:

  • guiding you through the process of the coroner’s initial investigation in to a death
  • post mortems, including if you are seeking alternatives due to religious reasons
  • the return of the body
  • the issuing of the death certificate
  • the actions of the police in investigating a death
  • whether there is likely to be an inquest
  • whether that inquest will be with a jury and the coroner’s powers regarding this
  • whether to apply to be an ‘interested person’ in the inquest
  • witness summonses
  • your right to see the evidence
  • the provision of witness statements
  • whether the inquest should look at the wider circumstances of a death
  • what will be made public if an inquest goes ahead
  • challenging decisions made by a coroner
  • instructing expert advocates to appear at court for you
  • how to protect your interests if you are concerned about giving evidence
  • how to deal with other investigation such as those of the police, the IOPC or the Care Quality Commission
  • funding options for representation

Olliers Public Inquiry and Inquest cases

  • Representation of core participant during the Manchester Arena Bombing Inquiry
  • Representation of key witness during the Manchester Arena Bombing Inquiry
  • Representation of client in relation to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – Residential Schools following receipt of Rule 13 warning letter
  • Representation of an interested party during Operation Resolve, the police investigation into the 1988 Hillsborough disaster
  • Representation of a key witness during the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA), including advice during the police interviews before the inquiry and attendance at the inquiry itself
  • Representation of young man acquitted of the murder his friend. Following the conclusion of the criminal trial our client was required to attend and give further evidence at an inquest into the death of his friend. Ultimately the coroner did not give a verdict of unlawful killing but provided a narrative verdict. Read more
  • We represented a woman with significant learning difficulties who faced a manslaughter trial, following the death of a family member who had drunk concentrated vinegar in an effort to cause a miscarriage. Following her acquittal, we acted at the subsequent inquest at which no blame was attributed to our client and indeed the Coroner criticised the CPS’s decision to charge. Read more
  • We represented a young woman charged with murdering her two young children in North Manchester. The client eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility. We obtained legal aid to represent the client at the subsequent inquest at which the 999 response was criticised by the coroner. Read more
  • We represented an ambulance driver who the police alleged had failed to secure a wheelchair properly within his ambulance. Following a lengthy police investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge the client with gross negligence manslaughter. We represented the client at the subsequent inquest at which no criticism was made of him. Read more
  • We represented a custody officer from a Staffordshire police station where a man died in custody. The jury made no criticism of the officer’s actions. Read more
  • We represented custody staff from a Crown Court in the Midlands who had looked after a defendant who subsequently hanged himself in prison. We advised them throughout the lengthy investigation and represented them at the inquest itself.
  • We represented a forensic medical examiner who was an interested person at an inquest in to the death of person in custody at a Suffolk police station.
  • We represented custody staff from a prison in South Wales following the suicide of a prisoner who had a history of self harm.
  • Representation of a former prison governor regarding the death in custody of a person killed by another inmate within that prison.
  • Representation of a nurse in a prison where a person died following swallowing drugs.
  • 20 years experience of representing employees of private security companies during police investigations, IOPC investigations, criminal prosecutions and inquests

Specialist Public Inquiry and Inquest Lawyers (London & Manchester)

If you need advice or representation in relation to an inquiry or an inquest please contact our team of experts on 0161 834 1515 or email info@olliers.com.

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