In a recent judicial review of a coroner’s decision, the High Court was asked to consider, among other things, the correct scope for a non-Article 2 inquest. The judgment of the case, R(on the application of Butler & anor) v HM coroner for the Black Country district (2010) can be accessed here.

The inquest was held into the death of an employee who was run over by another employee as he fitted a water pump in a flooded manhole. The coroner wished to adduce evidence from a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector and two police officers in the belief that the jury might consider a verdict of unlawful killing.

The High Court held that the coroner’s view that he had an unlimited discretion as to the evidence he could call was incorrect. The High Court ruled that where Article 2 did not apply, the coroner was restricted to calling evidence of fact as to the matters set out in Rule 36 namely, who, when, where and how.

The coroner should also have regard to the verdicts realistically available when determining the scope of the enquiry. In this case the coroner was not entitled to adduce evidence from the HSE Inspector or the police officers because the evidence, even taken at its highest, would not support a verdict of unlawful killing.