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11 Jun 21 Back to Listing

Judgment handed down in significant Article 2 Inquest: R (Morahan) v HM Assistant Coroner for West London [2021] EWHC 1603 (Admin)

The Divisional Court has considered whether there is a duty to hold an Article 2 compliant inquest following the death of a young woman, who was a voluntary in-patient of a psychiatric rehabilitation unit, when her death resulted from an accidental overdose of illicit drugs used at home in the community.

In a comprehensive judgment, which reviewed the leading relevant cases including Rabone v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust [2012] 2 AC 72 and R (Maguire) v HM Senior Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde [2020] EWCA Civ 738, Popplewell LJ ruled, first, that the circumstances of the death did not, as the Claimant had argued, automatically trigger the need for an enhanced investigation (as considered in R (Letts) v Lord Chancellor [2015] 1WLR 4497) and that the law should not be extended to a death such as this.

The Court decided, secondly, that on the evidence no operational duty under Article 2 arose; in that regard it was emphasised that there must be evidence of a real and immediate risk of death, of which the state knew or ought to have known, in order for an operational duty to arise at all, and the existence of the risk was not of relevance only to the question of breach, as the Claimant had contended.

The other members of the Court were Garnham J. and HHJ Teague QC (the Chief Coroner of England and Wales), both of whom were in agreement.

Alison Hewitt appeared and acted for the Coroner in this matter.

View the full judgment here