On 31st March the Divisional Court, in a leading judgment by the Chief Coroner HHJ Teague QC, provided some useful guidance on how coroners should approach findings of fact and conclusions at inquests.
Linda Johns died of malignant mesothelioma in 2018, having previously lived for many years in a council-owned flat which was known to have contained asbestos during the early years of her tenancy. At the inquest, the senior coroner concluded that on the balance of probabilities Mrs Johns was exposed to asbestos at her flat and that this had caused her mesothelioma. The council challenged this conclusion, arguing that the evidence adduced by the coroner at the inquest established that such findings were possible but not probable.
The court agreed and quashed the coroner’s findings. In doing so, the Chief Coroner held that at the end of an inquest a coroner should consider the safety of any conclusion or finding that he or she was proposing to make, together with the sufficiency of the evidence available to support it (§31).
Judgment available here. Peter Skelton QC was instructed for the council.