When should inquests be reopened?

Can it ever be right to reopen an inquest? We know that, from time to time, the decision of a coroner is judicially reviewed by interested persons and a new inquest ordered.

The recent case of Nathan Jones looked at this very question. Would it be justified to reopen an inquest?

The deceased’s father applied to reopen the inquest into his five-year-old son’s death. He died in 2005 following an outbreak of E.coli from cooked meat produced by a catering business in Wales. At the inquest, in 2010, the coroner concluded that he was not satisfied that a reasonably prudent person in the catering manager’s position would have foreseen a serious and obvious risk of death.

Over two years later, the Director of Public Prosecutions accepted there was an error in not charging the manager with gross negligence manslaughter.

The father sought to have the inquest reopened under section 13 Coroners Act 1988. The court refused, saying it was not appropriate to do so, as they could not show any error of law by the coroner. The correct course of action would have been to judicially review the decision at the time. The court said the father was now five years out of time and was unable to challenge the decision further.

The case highlights where section 13 Coroners Act will come into play and emphasises the need for individuals to ensure they pursue challenges through the correct court procedures.

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