In the case of R (on the application of Kent County Council) v HM Coroner for the County of Kent and Mr and Mrs Barry, Kent County Council applied for judicial review of the decisions of the Coroner that:

  • Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights applied to the inquest into the death of a 14 year old boy, Edward Barry
  • That the inquest should be held with a jury

The deceased was a 14-year-old who was known to social services (but not looked after by them). The boy was struggling with a methadone addiction and the parents had sought help from the council. The council had tried to find a foster placement for a short period but were unable to and the boy then died from a methadone overdose (which did not appear to be deliberate).

The Coroner had ruled that it should be an article 2 inquest with a jury to examine in detail the council's response to the parent's concerns. The council sought to have the Coroner’s decisions judicially reviewed. The court ruled that there was no operational duty on the part of the council because it could not be shown that there was a real and immediate risk of harm, therefore there could be no breach of the operational duty as required for article 2 to apply. If there was no breach of the operation duty then the procedural duty to carry out an article 2 inquest did not arise.

Despite this the court also said that the coroner was within his rights to call a jury in any event.