Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Eilidh Cairns - was the inquest into her death adequate?

BBC News has been reporting the Judicial Review proceedings heard today by Mr Justice Silber in the Administrative Court.  The legal action has been taken by the family of Eilidh Cairns against the Deputy Coroner of West London, Dr Shirley Radcliffe.  Dr Radcliffe was responsible for conducting the Inquest into the death of Eilidh who was killed by a lorry whilst she was cycling in Notting Hill in February 2009.
Counsel for the family is quoted as arguing that Dr Radcliffe failed to comply with her duties to "fully, fairly and fearlessly" investigate the facts of the death.  "There was a failure to consider the wider impact of Eilidh's death and the huge problem facing cyclists in London."
Counsel for the Deputy Coroner is quoted as arguing that the type of accident was "tragically common".and that there was no element of the accident which gave the coroner reason to think it "illustrated a systemic problem or that it might call for some specific response".
I confess that I find this response challenging; the fact that this type of accident is 'tragically common' may be thought to suggest that there is a systemic problem to which there could helpfully be 'some specific response'.
The death this month of fashion student Min Joo Lee in the motor-centric area of London around Kings Cross means that another Inquest will shortly be examining another death of a cyclist under a lorry.  Her death is the subject of an interesting article at The Guardian Bike Blog
An active participation in the prevention of future unnecessary deaths might be thought to be one of the strongest justifications there is for the coronial system of investigation that has come down to us from Medieval times.
I, for one, will be awaiting Silber J's Judgment with interest.