Jason Beer QC in Divisional Court on application for new inquest

14 December 2021

The Divisional Court (Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Jay) today handed down its judgment in Nguyen v HM Assistant Coroner for Inner West London [2021] EWHC 3354 (Admin).  Jason Beer QC acted for the Coroner.

This was a challenge to an inquest conducted into the death of 6-day old Hayden Nguyen at the Chelsea & Westminster Hospital.  Three grounds were pursued: (1) the Coroner’s decision not to hear evidence from an expert medical witness instructed by the family was flawed, (2) there was new evidence that justified quashing the inquisition and ordering a fresh inquest, and (3) the Coroner appeared to be biased and to have pre-determined the key issues.

The Coroner adopted a neutral position on Ground 2 (albeit seeking to assist the Court with the legal framework in relation to applications under s13 of the Coroners Act 1988), but made submissions on Grounds 1 and 3.

The Divisional Court dismissed Grounds 1 and 3, holding (on Ground 1) that the Coroner had a broad discretion as to the witnesses to be called, that she had called an extensive range of clinical and expert evidence, and that her decision at the Pre-Inquest Review had to be judged by reference to events at that time and not as matters unfolded in the course of the Inquest; and (on Ground 3) that, by the time of the events complained of, the Coroner had already heard from the treating clinicians and from and the expert witnesses – she had already, it appeared, formed firm provisional views about the case, but that did not amount to bias.

The Court upheld Ground 2, finding that there was new evidence which was credible and relevant to an important issue; and that on balance it would be desirable in the interests of justice for a further investigation to be held.  Accordingly, the inquisition was quashed and an order made for a new inquest to be held.

The case has attracted widespread coverage, including: BBC

Jason specialises in coronial law and claims arising from the conduct of inquests


Authors

Jason Beer KC

Call 1992 | Silk 2011

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Inquests

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