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R vINNER NORTH LONDON CORONER, EX PARTE CHAMBERS;
R vINNER NORTH LONDON CORONER, EX PARTE GREATER LONDON COUNCIL AND OTHERS
High Court of Justice
Queen’s Bench Division
29 April 1983
R Kidwell QC and R Webb for HM Coroner for Inner North London
S Sedley QC and P Sapsford for the Greater London Council and the London Borough of Hackney
A Weekes for Mr and Mrs Roach
J Marriage QC and D Stokes for the Metropolitan Police
R Narayan and E Cofie for the Hackney Black People’s Association
WOOLF J: Douglas Robert Chambers, Her Majesty’s Coroner for the Inner North London District, and the Greater London Council make cross-applications for judicial review in respect of the inquest which is yet to take place into the death of Colin Sylvester Roach. Before indicating the issues between the various parties who have appeared before me, it is necessary that I briefly set out the background to the applications.
On the 12th January 1983, at Stoke Newington police station, Colin Roach, who was then aged 21, died of shotgun wounds. He is alleged by the police to have shot himself in the mouth. On the 13th January, Dr. Chambers, the coroner, within whose district the death had occurred, decided to hold an inquest. The inquest was opened on the 18th January so that the body could be identified and burial order made. The inquest was due to be resumed on the 7th March but on the 23rd February 1983, it was agreed between representatives of the family and the Chief of Police that the inquest should be resumed on the 18th April 1983 at the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court.
The tragic death of Colin Roach gave rise to considerable public interest. Colin Roach was black and relations between the black members of the community and the police in Hackney were extremely sensitive. Demonstrations took place and regrettably there was some incidents of disorder and altogether some 90 arrests were made by the police.
Representations were made to the Home Secretary by a considerable number of individuals and associations and other bodies inviting the Home Secretary to set up a public inquiry into the situation created by the death of Colin Roach. The Home Secretary rejected the request for an inquiry. An example of the manner in which the Home Secretary rejected the request is to be found in the letter to the Chief Executive and Town Clerk of the London Borough of Hackney, dated the 24th February 1983, in which it is stated that it is the Home Secretary’s sincere hope that the facts would soon be authoritatively established and generally accepted but:
“He agrees that for this purpose it is necessary to have an open and independent public inquiry. But he has pointed out that this is precisely what the inquest, which he understands will be resumed next month, will provide. The inquest will be an occasion for a full examination in public of both the medical and circumstantial causes of the death. The coroner will sit with a jury and there will be a right for all interested parties to be represented. The Home Secretary appreciates that there is much anxiety and concern in Hackney about Mr. Roach’s death and, generally, about relationships between the police and the public there, but, while Mr. Roach’s death is still the subject of a coroner’s investigation, he does not think that it would be appropriate for him to consider establishing another inquiry...”
The position adopted by the Home Secretary did not satisfy those who wanted him to set up an inquiry. For example, the Chairman of the Police Committee, Brynley Heaven, of the London Borough of Hackney, wrote to the Home Secretary personally pointing out the shortcomings of an inquest. Nor did it please the coroner who was made aware of the Home Secretary’s views. The coroner considered that the Home Secretary had given a false impression as to the true nature and purpose of the forthcoming inquest. Following on from the decision of the Home Secretary not to set up an inquiry, the coroner received representations that the inquest should be held at Hackney Town Hall where undoubtedly more of the public could be accommodated than at the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court. Since the hearing ended, I have been informed that the coroner made enquiries of the GLC, properly referring to the Stoke Newington Magistrates’ Court, asking whether there was any prospect of the inquest being held there because that court is a larger premises.
On the 15th April 1983, that is the Friday before the inquest was due to resume on the following Monday 18th April, the leader of the Council of the London Borough of Hackney and the Director General of the Greater London Council wrote to the coroner. The letter from the leader of the London Borough of Hackney stated:
“My Council and the Greater London Council are most concerned that St. Pancras Court will not, in the event, be able to accommodate even a small proportion of those individual members of the local community in Hackney who wish to hear the proceedings. On behalf of those ‘members of the public’ I urge you most strongly to reconsider my Council’s offer to make suitable accommodation available at Hackney Town Hall for the hearing, and to hold the inquest in Hackney.”
The letter from the GLC went further. It informed the Coroner that a decision had been taken by the Chairman of the Legal and General Committee on behalf of the Committee as follows:
“I am writing to inform you of a decision which has today been taken as a matter of urgency by the Chairman of the Legal and General Committee of this Council on behalf of the Committee. A copy of the report submitted to the Chairman is enclosed. The decision is: 1. That in discharge of the Council’s functions under s78(3) London Government Act 1963, the Committee determines that St. Pancras Coroner’s Court is not proper accommodation for the holding of the inquest on the late Colin Roach and that accommodation available at Hackney Town Hall would be proper. 2. That the accommodation provided by the Council for the inquest on the late Colin Roach pursuant to s78(3) London Government Act 1963 should be the Council Chamber or the Assembly Hall at Hackney Town Hall and not St. Pancras Coroner’s Court. 3. That in the event of a decision by yourself after this determination to hold the Inquest in St. Pancras Coroner’s Court, the head of Legal Branch be authorised to take appropriate legal action pursuant to Counsel’s advice. 4. That in the event of a venue of the Inquest being changed at short notice, the Council should provide two coaches to transport members of the public from St. Pancras Coroner’s Court to the new venue. As eight members of the Council required the directions of the Legal and General Committee to be taken on the Chairman’s decision, definitive action thereon will be required by the Council’s standing orders to be delayed pending the Committee’s instruction. The matter will be before the meeting of the Legal and General Committee on Tuesday 19th April.”
Sensibly, having received these letters, the coroner recognised that it would not be possible to proceed with the inquest on the 18th April. He therefore attempted to notify those concerned and sat on the 18th April only to announce his decision to adjourn and to deal with various ancillary applications.
By that time, the family of the deceased had also formed the view that the inquest should not take place at the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court and applied that the inquest should continue at Hackney Town Hall. This application was supported by counsel on behalf of the Borough of Hackney. Counsel also appeared on behalf of the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and objected to the venue being changed to Hackney Town Hall. In addition to dealing with the question of venue, the coroner heard a submission on behalf of the Hackney Black People’s Association by a Mr. Lewis that they should be treated as an interested party at the inquest and allowed legal representation. The coroner had previously indicated to the Association that he did not regard them as an interested party but on the 18th April, he Indicated that Mr. Lewis should come back at the adjourned hearing and make his representations then.
Having obtained legal advice, the coroner made an application to this court seeking two declarations: the first being that he was entitled to conduct the inquest at the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court at Camley Street, London, NW1 and the second being that the Hackney Black People’s Association had not satisfied him that it is a properly interested person within the meaning of the Coroners Rules, 1953, as amended by the Coroners (Amendment) Rules 1980. Originally, the application was being made by originating summons but on reconsideration, the Coroner made an application for judicial review and the leave was granted for the making of that application by this court on the 19th April 1983.
On the 19th April 1983, the Legal and General Committee of the GLC passed a resolution pursuant to Section 78(3) of the London Government Act 1963: 1. That the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court is not proper accommodation for the inquest of the late Colin Roach. 2. That the accommodation available at Hackney Town Hall is proper accommodation. 3. That Hackney Town Hall should be the accommodation provided by the Council for the Inquest pursuant to Section 78(3) London Government Act 1963, and St. Pancras Coroner’s Court should not be so provided.
On the same day, the Council asked the coroner what his views were as to venue and the coroner, having Indicated that he was still intending to conduct the inquest at St. Pancras Coroner’s Court, the GLC obtained leave to make an application for an order of prohibition preventing the coroner from sitting at the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court and an order of mandamus requiring him to conduct the inquest at Hackney Town Hall.
The issues before me are therefore: (A) Did the coroner lawfully come to the decision to hold the inquest at St. Pancras Coroner’s Court having regard to the representations which were made to him and the, offer which he received to allow him to conduct the inquest at Hackney Town Hall? (B) Are the resolutions of the GLC lawful and is the coroner required by those resolutions to conduct the inquest at the Hackney Town Hall? (C) Is the coroner entitled to the declaration which he seeks as to the status of the Hackney Black People’s Association?
Before proceeding further, I should make it clear that I can only interfere with the decisions of the coroner and of the GLC if I come to the conclusion that they were decisions to which they could not lawfully come. I should also make it clear that Miss Weeks, in her helpful submissions on behalf of the family, left me in no doubt that the only concern of her clients is that the inquest should be conducted as soon as possible in a lawful manner so that they can ascertain the facts relating to Colin Roach’s death.
In his submissions on behalf of the Coroner, Mr. Kidwell took a general point as to the powers of this court in relation to the decisions of the Coroner. He based those submissions on the case of R v The Surrey Coroner, ex parte Campbell  QB 661,  2 All ER 545. In that case, the Divisional Court made it clear that where the Attorney-General had not authorised an application to the High Court for a review of a Coroner’s inquest, the powers of the High Court will be limited to those which the High Court would have at common law to review a decision of an inferior court. As a matter of degree, Mr. Kidwell took a more restrictive view of those common law powers than Mr. Sedley but, in my view, this does not matter since the coroner himself, having applied for relief by way of declaration, I have come to the conclusion that the court would only grant him such relief if he would have been entitled to it after an application to quash his decision authorised by the Attorney-General. As I understand it, Mr. Kidwell accepted this must be the position.
Issue A. The power of the High Court on an application made by or under the authority of the Attorney-General is set out in Section 6 of the Coroners Act 1887 in sufficiently wide terms to enable me to give full consideration to the first issue.
The complaints of both Councils, which are adopted by the family, run as follows: that the Coroner’s Court is too small to allow the people who would want to attend the inquest to attend. Indeed, so few people would be able to attend, that the inquest could not be described as being held in public. The matter is one of great interest to the people who live in Hackney and having regard to the interest generated by the inquest, it will just not be possible for more than a token number of members of the public to attend when the necessary accommodation is provided for the lawyers and the press. Indeed, the parents have five children who would like to attend and if room is to be made for the children, it is unlikely that their other relatives and friends who want to do so would be able to attend the inquest.
In order to decide whether or not it is possible for this court to interfere with the decision of the coroner, ignoring for the moment the resolutions of the GLC, it is necessary to consider the powers and duties of the coroner and the functions of an inquest.
Section 3 of the Coroners Act 1887 provides that where there is to be an inquest, the Coroner is required, as soon as practicable, to issue his warrant for summoning the jury “to appear before him at a specific time and place..” The only requirement of the Coroners Rules 1953 is that the inquest shall be held in public (Rule 14). Putting aside, therefore, the action of the GLC under section 78(3) of the London Government Act, I have no doubt that the statement in Halsbury’s Laws of England, Fourth Edition, at Paragraph 1076, that
“it is entirely within the discretion of the Coroner to fix the particular place for holding the inquest, providing that the place selected is within his jurisdiction”
subject to certain exceptions which are not relevant here, is correct. The Coroner must, however, exercise his discretion judicially, bearing in mind that the inquest is to be held in public and the purpose of the inquest.
The purpose of an inquest is made clear by the Coroners Rules 1953, as amended. Rule 26 provIdes, so far as relevant:
“The proceedings and evidence at an inquest shall be directed solely to ascertaining the following matters, namely: (a) who the deceased was: (b) how, when and where the deceased came by his death.”
Rule 27 provides that neither the Coroner nor the jury shall express any opinion on any matters other than those referred to in the last foregoing rule; while Rule 31 provides that no person shall be allowed to address the Coroner or the jury as to facts; although interested persons have the rjght to be represented under Rule 16 as amended.
Although an inquest is therefore an inquiry which is to be held in public, it is not intended to be a public inquiry, using that phrase as referring to the type of inquiry that the Home Secretary had been asked to set up. Estimates vary as to the number of persons who are able to be accommodated at the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court between 50 and 60, not including the coroner, his officers and legal representatives. I have been provided with a scale plan of the court and have a clear impression as to its size. The coroner, in his evidence, indicates that he has given his approval to 22 requests for press accreditation and that two rows holding about eighteen people are to be saved for the family. Only a few additional members of the public are, therefore, going to be able to attend. I am bound to say that I would be happier if more members of the public were able to attend but I have no doubt whatsoever that even on the lower estimate as to the number of people who are able to attend, this inquest, if it is conducted in the manner proposed by the coroner, will be conducted in public. I interpose to say that the new evidence which was put before me today indicates that the coroner himself had some reservations as to the adequacy of the accommodation at the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court.
The requirement to sit in public does not mean that everyone who wants to must be able to attend. Here the number of members of the public and press who can attend will avoid the dangers referred to in Scott v Scott  AC 417. Furthermore, I have no doubt that the coroner was entitled to come to the decision which he did not that that decision was not unreasonable. As the coroner points out in his evidence before the Court, as far as is known, inquests have regularly been conducted at the court since 1888 without objection and certain of those inquests would have been inquests which attracted at least as much public attention as this inquest has attracted. It is an inquest into one death only and there will be limited legal representation. It is to be remembered that the decision at the inquest is to be given by a jury and it is quite wrong that a jury should be subjected to undue pressure. The problems which can occur when large numbers of the public attend an inquest at which feelings run high have been recently demonstrated and it is perfectly proper for the coroner not to want to run the risk of a repetition of the sort of situation which existed at the Deptford inquest, which was the subject of the decision of the Divisional Court given on the 8th July 1982. Of course, the coroner must give weight to representations of the sort which he received in this case but as long as he considered those representations, this court cannot intervene if he acted reasonably. Indeed, it is right,that the matter having come before me, I should make it clear that on the material before this court, given the choice which faced the coroner, I would have chosen the Coroner’s Court.
Issue B. I turn, therefore, to the second issue and section 78(3) of the London Government Act 1963. That section provides:
“The Greater London Council may provide and maintain proper accommodation for the holding of Inquests.”
Were it not for the fact that the earlier Act, the Public Health (London Act 1936, in section 238(1) stated that “The County Council shall provide” and section 78(4) in fact commences: “It shall be the duty”, I would have thought there was considerable substance In Mr. Sedley’s contention that although the wording of section 78(3) is permissive, it is mandatory in effect and had compulsory force since what was to be done was for the public benefit and in advancement of public justice. (See R v The Tithe Commissioners 14 Ad & El 474). It is not, however, necessary in my view to express a concluded view on this since, unlike counsel, I do not regard it as being of significance whether the GLC is under a duty or merely has a discretion.
As far as is known, outside the Greater London area, there is no similar statutory obligation affecting a local authority to that contained in section 78(3) and it has not been made clear in the course of argument what the reason is for the statutory obligation in relation to London. However, whatever the explanation, I am confident that Parliament did not by the inclusion of the subsection intend to change the relationship between the coroner and the authority which appoints him. The office which a coroner holds is a judicial office of great antiquity and it is inconceivable that in a London Government Act it was proposed to give the Greater London Council, by the inclusion of a provision of this sort, a power to interfere with the proper exercise of the coroner’s discretion. The GLC is therefore not entitled to an order of mandamus requiring the coroner to conduct the inquest at the Hackney Town Hall. However, there remains the question as to whether or not the GLC has properly exercised its function under section 78(3) In declaring that the St. Pancras Coroner’s Court is not proper accommodation for the inquest of Colin Roach.
Section 78(3) enables the GLC to provide accommodation and I accept that it could provide accommodation for a single inquest. Furthermore, if it can provide it, it must also be open for the GLC to cease to provide it at least where it makes alternative accommodation available. However, what the GLC has purported to declare in this case is what is or is not proper accommodation for a particular inquest because of its view as to how many members of the public should be able to attend and what it considers is in the interest of race relations in order to overrule the decision of the coroner to whom is entrusted the judicial discretion of deciding the matter. This is outside the powers of the GLC and is an attempt to usurp the powers of the coroner.
The St. Pancras Coroner’s Court is still apparently regarded as suitable for other inquests and it was nothing to do with its structure, apart from the limits it imposed on the number of people who were able to attend, which caused the GLC to declare it unsuitable. The GLC used its power under the subsection not for the purposes and objects of the Act but for a collateral purpose, namely, its desire to override the discretion of the coroner as to the venue of the inquest. Using its powers in this way, the GLC acted ultra vires as was made clear by the House of Lords in Padfield’s case  AC 997,  1 All ER 694. It should not be thought that in expressing these views, I am suggesting that the GLC could not legitimately take the view that it was better for the inquest to take place at Hackney Town Hall. Before the decision was taken, the Director-General of the GLC had prepared a report which was before the Committee indicating the reasons why there might be disorder if the 250 people who he indicated might want to attend were unable to attend. If the discretion as to venue was one for the GLC, then, having regard to that report, it would not be possible to challenge the decision of the GLC as being unreasonable. While in general it is perfectly proper for the GLC to take into account what is in the interests of good race relations, in the circumstances of this case, the decision was not for the GLC and therefore even if the GLC had the best of motives, that cannot make lawful what is a misuse of their powers.
I say that notwithstanding the request, which is now known, which was made to the GLC. That request was made prior to the decision of the coroner to which I have made reference. It was sensible and reasonable for the coroner to explore the possibilities of alternative accommodation. However, the coroner had to come to a decision between the Coroner’s Court and the Hackney Town Hall and having come to the conclusion that the Coroner’s Court, although on the small side, was adequate accommodation, it was not the GLC, by purporting to make use of section 78(3), a bricks and mortar provision, to seek to compel him to go to the Hackney Town Hall when he had already indicated that that was a venue of which he did not approve.
Issue C. The third issue is quite distinct from the earlier issues. It arises out of the terms of Rule 16 of the Coroners Rules 1953, as amended, which provides:
“Without prejudice to an enactment with regard to the examination of witnesses at an inquest, any person who in the opinion of the coroner is a properly interested person shall be entitled to examIne any witness at an inquest either in person or by counsel or solicitor”.
It Is not necessary to read the proviso. Sub-paragraph 2 provides:
“Each of the following persons shall have the right conferred by Paragraph 1 of this Rule.... (h) any other person who in the opinion of the coroner is a properly interested person.”
In order to decide what is meant by an interested person, it is important to bear in mind the nature of the inquiry which is conducted at the inquest. Normally, to be an interested person, you must be connected in some way either with the deceased or the circumstances leading up to his death.
The Hackney Black People’s Association is a voluntary non-party-political organisatlon and, according to the affidavit filed on its behalf by its Chairman, Mr. Lewis, its objects are to look at the economic and social conditions of the black community in Hackney. Exhibited to that affidavit is a statement of the Association’s constitution which amplifies what Mr. Lewis says by indicating the areas of its activities and Mr Narayan, in his careful and helpful submissions on behalf of the Association, draws attention to the fact that one area is police-black community relations.
The Association was one of the bodies which was demanding a full independent public inquiry into policing in Hackney. In relation to such an inquiry, I have no doubt whatsover that the Association would be an interested person. However, it had no special relationship with the deceased and was in no way involved in his death and on the material which has been put before this court and which so far has been put before the coroner, the Association is not an interested person in relation to the inquiry into the circumstances of Colin Roach’s death, although that death took place at a police station and may have adverse consequences in respect of relations between the black community and the police in the Hackney area. If it were an interested person, then every other individual or body concerned with race relations would also be interested.
I have deliberately limited what I have said to the material so far put before the court and the coroner because the coroner accepts that when the inquest is resumed, the Hackney Black People’s Association are entitled to put forward further submissions. What I have said must not, therefore, be taken as prejudging those submissions if they put forward any additional reasons. As the coroner is prepared to hear further submissions, it is not necessary, in my view, to decide, whether or not the coroner gave the Association a sufficient opportunity to indicate why they should be regarded as persons interested. The matter was previously being dealt with in an Informal manner and when the inquest resumes, a proper formal opportunity must be given to the Association.
When the coroner comes to consider any submissions that the Association makes, he should bear in mind that while Rule 16 indicates the circumstances in which a person has the right to examine witnesses, it is not exhaustive of his discretion and he still has a residual discretion which may only need to be exercised to allow certain questioning if he considers, for good reason, that it is appropriate to do so. Whether he does so, however, is a matter entirely for his discretion and if he exercises his discretion, it will be difficult to imagine circumstances in which this court could intervene. As no final decision has been reached in respect of the Association’s application to be treated as an interested person, it would be inappropriate for me to grant any declaration.
In relation to the other issues, I would be prepared to consider making a declaration if it is thought that there would be any purpose in doing so. Before leaving the case, I would like to add this comment as to the future. It would be most unfortunate if this dispute about venue was allowed to prejudice the spirit in which this inquest is conducted. I have indicated that the coroner was perfectly entitled to come to the decision which he did as to the suitability of the Coroner’s Court although I would have preferred a slightly larger court. In making his decision, the coroner was faced with only one alternative venue. Of that alternative, the police, in their evidence before me, have stated that if the inquest is held in Hackney Town Hall, they sincerely fear the likelihood of disorder. The police do not oppose any change.of venue but a change of venue to Hackney Town Hall, which the police say has been a focus for disturbance. According to the evidence filed on behalf of the GLC, at the Hackney Town Hall, the Council Chamber holds between 100 and 200 people plus 60 in the gallery, and the Assembly Room about 600. The coroner’s jury want to be able to carry out their deliberations coolly and not in an emotionally overcharged atmosphere. I can well understand why it should be thought that it would be better if the inquest were not conducted in Hackney (after all criminal trials are sometimes moved because of the strength of feeling In a locality) and that the location should be smaller than the Town Hall: as somewhere that is larger than the usual Coroner’s Court but would not give impression of being an arena.
I would have thought, notwithstanding what happened at Stoke Newington Magistrates’ Court, that within the coroner’s district, it would be possible to find a suitable alternative venue which meets the police objections and would allow more of the public to attend, say about 100 people altogether, including the coroner, jury and lawyers. Indeed, and again notwithstanding what has already taken place, if an application were made to the appropriate authorities, I have little doubt that, notwithstanding the pressure on court accommodation, a law court could be found which will provide the sort of setting which I have in mind. The coroner will, I am sure, consider this possibility.
MR. KIDWELL: I ask for the declarations to be made against the GLC. I understood your Lordship to say that it would be premature for a request for a declaration to be made against the Black People’s Association. I have an application for costs.
WOOLF J: Before you go further, do you think a declaration would add anything to what has already been said in my judgment?
MR. KIDWELL: Perhaps not. It is just a formalisation of what your Lordship has said.
WOOLF J: I do not want it to be thought that I am refusing a declaration because that can be misinterpreted. I think it is much better that the judgment, which is a public document, is read as a whole and one refrains from paraphrasing what is said in it in a few words.
MR. KIDWELL: I will not press that. After costs have been dealt with, I shall seek leave to make a statement relating to your Lordship’s suggestions about the size of the court. It has already been considered and your Lordship may not be surprised to discover that, now the coroner is free to decide, he has ideas on it. I ask for the whole of the coroner’s costs in this application to be paid by the GLC and Hackney Borough Council except for the costs of drafting the originating summons.
Since there are quite a lot of parties, may I explain? The GLC are the immediate movers in forcing the coroner to come to court, but they were activated by the Hackney Borough Council. That is why I ask for costs against both of them. They both have means. Once it was clear that the coroner was required to come to court, it was necessary to join in the Roach family. Of course no burden for costs should fall on the Roach family so far as their appearance here is concerned. They have little private means. We have heard about the Roach family funds but one Is under the impression that that is not to pay for anything in relation to the inquest. Some solution must be found for the Roach family and it may be that they will make an application that the GLC should pay their costs because the GLC forced the coroner to come to court and forced the coroner to join the necessary interested parties.
The police are here but they have funds to take care of themselves. Normally, the GLC will stand behind the coroner because he does not have private funds. They have not done so and will not do so. The coroner would have had a slight presence if he had not had the good fortune to belong to the medical profession. They are paying his costs. As far as the Hackney Black People’s Association is concerned, they need not have come but they have come. I say nothing more about that. There may be other applications amongst other parties. I say that everyone was sensibly and properly brought here by the coroner and the GLC and the Hackney Borough Council should pay the costs.
MR. MARRIAGE: As far as the Commissioner is concerned, he was originally brought here by the coroner but, as your Lordship pointed out, these are cross-applications for judicial review. In those circumstances, I ask for an order for costs against the GLC, although it is an order which may not be carried out.
WOOLF J: Mr. Sedley, you do not need to trouble about the applications for costs on behalf of the police. It was proper that they should be here and they can be here at their own expense.
MR. SEDLEY: So far as Mr Kidwell’s application for costs is concerned, I am not instructed to oppose it as far as it is directed against the GLC and the London Borough of Hackney. Also, I am not instructed by them that your Lordship should spread the burden further.
WOOLF J: Thank you very much.
MISS WEEKES: I have no applications for costs. I am obliged to my learned friend, Mr. Kidwell, for suggesting no order for costs against us. We can sort out any matters between ourselves and the GLC. I ask for legal aid taxation.
WOOLF J: Certainly.
MR. NARAYAN: I have an application for costs against the coroner because Hackney Black People’s Association was summoned here by him. It was not made clear when we were so summoned that the door would be left open. As I understand your Lordship’s judgment, it is only because that door was opened in the middle of the hearing, on Tuesday morning, that your Lordship has found it not necessary to proceed further. A declaration has been sought and it is not being granted. We have been summoned here by the coroner and if that door was going to be left open, it should have been made clear before. My application is that he should pay the costs of the Hackney Black People’s Association.
WOOLF J: I would like to hear you on that, Mr. Kidwell.
MR. KIDWELL: It stems from your Lordship’s judgment that the door was left open at the inquest. It was not unreasonable for us to raise this matter here. So far as anyone has won or lost, we have won and I am not asking for costs against Mr. Narayan. He can raise a claim against the GLC if he wishes. It was not unreasonable for the coroner to clear up all outstanding matters once he was brought here by force by the GLC. I would submit that I should not pay Mr. Narayan’s costs and that it was not unreasonable for the coroner to bring up any issues which may have been outstanding once we were here. We probably would not have but the GLC forced us to be here. Of course, they need not have come.
WOOLF J: I think that is putting it a little high.
MR. KIDWELL: I am not asking for costs against them. I simply submit that they must look elsewhere. I do not know where their costs come from.
MR. NARAYAN: There Is one matter that should be clear. There has never been any issue between the GLC and the Hackney Borough Council on the one hand and the Hackney Black People’s Association on the other hand. We were not a party to the venue and we never have been. We were only brought here by the coroner who sought a declaration in respect of an opinion which he stated he had held in respect of the Association. He need not have summoned us here if he had left the door open. Costs should go to the party who summoned us here as the relief being sought has not been granted.
WOOLF J: It does seem to me that the Black People’s Association should have their costs as they need not have been here on this application. I make an order against the coroner in respect of their costs. I make two things clear. First of all, I do not suggest that the coroner acted other than reasonably when he brought the Hackney Black People’s Association before the court when the matter was coming before the court anyway. It was convenient that it should be dealt with in that way. Secondly, as it was reasonable for the coroner to bring the Black People’s Association here, under the normal basis on which the coroner receives his remuneration, this should be regarded as a proper exercise of his office. Therefore, if he has any right to recover proper expenditure - not because of anything that the GLC had done in these proceedings these costs should be capable of being recouped in ordinary accounting between the coroner and the GLC. I have not heard Mr. Sedley on this but I make it clear that no claim has been. made to recover these costs in these proceedings. That is a matter which can be canvassed in the appropriate way hereafter. I have merely given an indication so that it can be on record that I regard the coroner’s conduct as being reasonable. May I say this before the case is completed? I am grateful to all counsel for the considered and careful arguments which they have advanced. If I may say so, the matter could not have been better presented on behalf of the parties than its was.
MISS WEEKES: May I just say this? If, in the event, this matter does go further, the family have instructed me that they do not wish to be a party on the next occasion.
MR. MARRIAGE: May I use your Lordship’s court to say this. It is getting on for four months since the death of this unfortunate young man. If the GLC intend to launch an appeal I would ask for every expedition to be given to (a) the decision, and (b) the hearing. We are now running into the time of summer holidays. I calculate that there are eight police officers, two doctors, one pathologist, four experts and over a dozen civilian witnesses and the Governor of a prison. These are all people who may have made holiday arrangements. It is desperately important that we should know where we are as soon as possible.
MR. KIDWELL: I indicated to your Lordship that I would seek leave to make a statement. It arises out of two aspects of your Lordship’s judgment. Your Lordship has observed that your Lordship would be happier to see a greater number of people attending and, given the choice that the coroner had, your Lordship would have chosen the Coroner’s Court. That is a thought that the coroner has entertained for some time. It was not easy to solve because he was given no choice. However, he is now free due to your Lordship’s judgment. He can receive applications from the Roach family as to various alternative courses. If there is a larger court available in his district, which there was not, he will consider sitting in that court. The Clerkenwell County Court is larger than St. Pancras and the estimate made by my learned junior, who has viewed the court himself, is that 100 people, including the press and the family could be accommodated there. That is a matter that the coroner would consider.
WOOLF J: It would not be appropriate for me to say anything but I am certain that the Lord Chancellor’s Department would try to assist.
MR. KIDWELL: I will not go on to another alternative. As your Lordship knows, the coroner enquIred if there were any judicial premises in his district and he was told that there were not. The pressures were put on him and he was left with no further choice. He will find great relief from the fact that your Lordship has given that indication. As far as expedition is concerned, he will proceed as quickly as he can. I do not know whether the problems of the Roach Family regarding the availability of counsel have been resolved but we will hear all that and the Coroner will make his decision.
MR. SEDLEY: May I just say this?
WOOLF J: Yes.
MR. SEDLEY: It is very gratifying to know that the coroner is considering alternative venues and has been helped by your Lordship’s views about that. It would be wrong if anyone were to suppose that the GLC was at fault for not exploring these avenues. It is a fact that all the premises being mentioned by my learned friend now are not under the control of the GLC and they would have to be asked for by the coroner in a way in which he is proposing to do. When the Council was faced with the fact that one of the premises was unsuitable, it was intent on making another available instead. That is what it sought to do. The matter has gone no further than that. Both of the local authorities that I represent will be very happy if some suitable venue other than St. Pancras can be found. However, much water has passed under the bridge in relation to the Hackney Town Hall.
WOOLF J: Thank you very much.
Solicitors: Le Brasseur & Bury; the Solicitor to the Greater London Council; B N Birnberg & Co; the Solicitor to the Metropolitan Police; Maxwell & Gouldman.
Last modified: Monday, 09-Aug-2004 08:53:02 BST by: Malcolm Bishop