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R v DR. MARY MCHUGH
ex parte DONALD GILCHRIST TRELFORD, DAVID LEIGH and THE OBSERVER LIMITED
22 March 1984
The Respondent did not appear and was not represented
LORD JUSTICE WATKINS: The least said about this matter at the moment the better. The inquest upon the deceased will now be held, as we have lifted the stay. The coroner should hold the inquest without delay and hold it in public. Whether she has cause, during the hearing, to proceed in camera at some later stage is obviously a matter which only she can determine upon the material before her.
Upon the matter of costs, what appears to be clear is that the applicants have succeeded, by reason of the original application which they have brought before this court, in being very largely instrumental in causing the coroner to change her mind. She seems to be a very stubborn lady. The Foreign Office tried to change her mind and failed, initially anyway. The Treasury Solicitor seems to have played a hand in that endeavour to no purpose for a while. The Attorney-General has obviously had to be very firm in his advice to her. What has caused her to behave in the way she has we cannot tell, but we have been persuaded that she had, so far as we can see, no valid reason for saying that she would hold this inquest in camera.
The original application was to review that decision. Now that she has agreed to hold the inquest in public, there is no point in that application. Mr Robertson agrees that the only sensible course which he can adopt is to ask us to permit him to withdraw it. That consent we give. But he says, the motion that the applicants had to make in order to get the stay which had been imposed upon his inquest and which has not been lifted, was brought about because the coroner stubbornly refused to recognise, having already agreed that the inquest should be in public, that she should proceed to conduct the inquest. Moreover, she made no attempt to agree to the stay being lifted, still less to apply to this court for that purpose. She has, it is said, unaccountably not answered letters couched in civil terms. I regret to have to say of her, from what we know from the affidavits (she said that she did not intend to come here unless the court demanded her presence) that she seems in some ways to have acted as though she were a mistress of discourtesy.
All the difficulties that have come about since she changed her mind as to whether or not this inquest should be held in public or in camera have, it is submitted, been caused by her failure to react to invitations to her to have the stay lifted away from it, to proceed with the inquest and in any event to respond in a sensible way to quite proper inquiries made of her as to what in this respect her intentions were. These proceedings could have been dismissed by consent, it is said, subject to costs.
The applicants have clearly been driven to make the applications to remove the stay in this court. There is no reason whatsoever, so it seems to us, why she should not have to pay the costs which have been thrown away by these applicants in making these unnecessary applications. That therefore, concludes the business that we are called upon to attend to.
Last modified: Monday, 09-Aug-2004 08:53:08 BST by: Malcolm Bishop