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CORONERS LAW RESOURCE
R v H M Coroner for North Cambridgeshire
ex parte Sidney Albert Chaney
Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
On Appeal from Crown Office List (Mr Justice Macpherson)
Glidewell LJ, Hobhouse LJ and Swinton Thomas LJ
19 May 1995
THE APPLICANT appeared in person.
LORD JUSTICE GLIDEWELL: This is a renewed application by Mr Chaney for leave to move for judicial review in order to enable him to quash the verdict of an inquisition by a coroner and a jury into the death of a Mr Frank Beck, which inquest took place and was reported on 21st July 1994, and for an order that a new inquest be held
I say immediately that Mr Chaney has, as he did before Mr Justice Macpherson of Cluny, who originally refused this application on 15th November 1994, prepared a carefully worded statement, which he has read to us, and he then at our invitation added a certain amount to that by way of emphasis. All the points that he seeks to make are in the statement and in the bundle, which he has very carefully prepared. Mr Chaney obviously has very considerable concern about this matter.
At the time of his death Mr Frank Beck was in HM Prison Whitemoor, serving five concurrent life sentences for sexual offences against children. He was awaiting an appeal. I understand that the appeal was to be against both conviction and sentence. Mr Beck was taken ill at about 7.15pm on 31st May 1994 while he was exercising, playing a form of tennis, in the prison gymnasium. He died in a cell in the prison hospital, according to the record, at 9.29pm.
After a post-mortem examination on the following morning the cause of death was certified as sudden cardiac arrhythmia resulting from ischaemic heart disease, namely atheroma, blockage of the coronary artery. The verdict of the inquest which Mr Chaney seeks to challenge, if he is given leave, was a verdict of death by natural causes.
Mr Chaney never met Mr Beck, but during the time that Mr Beck was in prison, both before and after his conviction, they entered into correspondence. The correspondence was initially nothing whatever to do with Mr Becks conviction but they corresponded quite frequently, and Mr Chaney came to regard Mr Beck as a friend; he called him today his dear friend.
Mr Chaney challenges, firstly, the conduct of some of the prison staff who attended to Mr Beck during the time between him being taken ill and his death. He challenges the conduct of the doctor who was called to the prison and issued the death certification, although he has not said anything about that today. There was no doctor resident in the prison at the relevant time so a doctor had to be summoned from outside, who did not arrive until shortly after Mr Beck had died. He challenges the Coroner. The basis of his challenge is that he believes, in effect, that Mr Beck was murdered; he has not used the word but that is what it comes to. He believes that Mr Becks death was deliberately caused, perhaps because he was a sexual offender. The basis of the challenge to the activities of the prison offices is not a direct allegation that they murdered Mr Beck, but that they covered up the circumstances leading to his death, that one of them fed false information to the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination and that they thus misled the Coroner. The complaint about the Coroner is as to his conduct at the inquest, because it is said, and no doubt correctly, that he did not allow Mr Chaney to speak, nor did he allow him to ask any questions. No doubt the Coroner took the view that Mr Chaney had no standing in the matter. It is alleged that altogether there has been a conspiracy, which includes also members of the police and a Member of Parliament.
The point taken about the medical records is that the pathologist records:
"He had a past history of heart pain for about six to eight weeks but no explanation had been found.
It is not suggested that the medical records showed any history of heart pain during the time in prison, but it is clear from other statements that Mr Beck was not complaining of heart pain whilst in prison; he complained that he had rheumatic pains. Mr Chaney says that this had misled the pathologist. The pathologists report is based partly upon the medical report, but to a very considerable extent upon her post-mortem examination. In her report, as she explained in evidence at the inquest, she said:
The examination of the lungs, the stomach, the bowel, the endocrine system. The only abnormality was in the heart. His heart was slightly overweight. The coronary arteries which supply the blood to the heart were very severely diseased. There are three main vessels which supply the heart. One of these vessels was totally occluded.She was asked what she meant by occluded and she said:
Occluded means blocked. One of the main branches of one of the three vessels was blocked, as was the main part of the third. In fact he had a very large part of the main pumping chamber where his heart was barely supplied with blood
If that was true, and I have not understood Mr Chaney to suggest that the pathologist was not telling the truth, his complaint is that she was misled by the prison officers, then whatever past medical records show, it is quite clear that that was the cause of Mr Becks death; indeed, with that condition he must have been at imminent risk of suffering a heart attack at any time.
Mr Justice Macpherson of Cluny refused leave on two separate grounds. The first is that he held that Mr Chaney, since he was not a relative of Mr Beck, not indeed had any close connection with him other than their correspondence, had no standing to bring proceedings for judicial review. He concluded also that despite Mr Chaneys conviction that there had been a grave miscarriage of justice, there is no evidence properly before the court, in the witness statements or in the material put before the Coroners inquest, to suggest that those against whom Mr Chaney makes accusations, other than the prison staff, had been in contact with Mr Beck for any appreciable time before his death. For those reasons, Mr Justice Macpherson of Cluny refused leave to move for judicial review. I entirely agree with the reasons he gave. Despite what I am convinced is Mr Chaneys genuine conviction, I have concluded that he is mistaken, there is no valid reason for seeking to reopen this inquest, and I would refuse leave
LORD JUSTICE HOBHOUSE: I agree
LORD JUSTICE SWINTON THOMAS: I agree.
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