Birmingham’s Senior Coroner has urged more than 100 legal experts to always put the family at the heart of an inquest during a law seminar held in the city.
Mrs Louise Hunt, Senior Coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, was the keynote speaker at the Annual Inquest Seminar hosted by No5 Barristers’ Chambers at Maple House.
She told the audience that her comments followed the Hillsborough inquests and said there was a significant focus now on the bereaved within the inquest process.
She said there had been a ‘sea-change’ in how families were treated, adding that one example was the fact families were being asked if they wanted to provide a ‘pen-portrait’ of their loved-one so that a description of their relative could be read out at the start of the inquest.
She said she always spoke to the families before the lawyers to make sure they were okay and, if they were unrepresented, she made sure they understood exactly what was going on.
She urged lawyers to speak in plain English and to be compassionate and understand that grief can take many different forms, including anger. She added: “An inquest is not a trial and there is a family struggling with this process. It is not a nice place to be and can be a very lonely experience for them and I would really like all lawyers involved in this process to think more about the families.”
Other topics covered during the event, included a ‘back to basics’ session, issues of potential criminal liability which may arise from inquests, Article 2 of the European Convention, hospital deaths and judicial review.
The seminar was supported by three different groups at No5 Barristers’ Chambers – personal injury and clinical negligence, regulation and the public law group.
Adrian Keeling QC, of No5 Barristers’ Chambers, said: “We were very grateful indeed to have Mrs Hunt join us for our annual seminar. The involvement of the three groups at No5 is in recognition of the importance of inquests and that the impact of an inquest can spread far beyond the courtroom.”