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 [2013] 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’.

BBC News article 1                    The Telegraph article 

BBC News article 2