Judicial review in respect of a decision by a coroner to leave a question regarding state defects to jury
Francesca Whitelaw successfully appeared on behalf of the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police in R (on the application of the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police ) v HM Coroner for Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon (Defendant) and (1) Mrs Elber Twomey (2) Mrs Agniezka Wojciechowska (3) The Insurers of Mr Marek Wojciechowski (Deceased) (4) Independent Police Complaints Commission  EWHC 3729 (Admin), an emergency application for judicial review, which arose out of an inquest into the death of a child and a suicidal driver.
On Friday 6th July 2012, Police received a report that a man had left his home address in his vehicle, leaving a suicide note. The call was graded by police as requiring an immediate response and he was categorized as a high risk missing person. Police units were asked to look for and stop check the vehicle. A police officer subsequently sighted the vehicle and signaled for it to stop. The driver initially appeared to slow but then suddenly accelerated and drove into a head-on collision with a vehicle carrying three occupants of the same family: a 16-month old boy who died at the scene; his father who subsequently died from his injuries; and his pregnant mother who survived but whose unborn baby did not survive. The suicidal driver died.
Stuart-Smith J, came to the ‘clear conclusion’ that the jury should not be asked a question regarding state defects as there was ‘no evidence to suggest that the procedures that he [the police officer] and the Police generally were following were inappropriate’.