Government abandons plans for secret inquests

May 15, 2009 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment

The Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, has announced that provisions in the Coroners and Justice Bill to dispense with a jury inquest “in certain tightly defined circumstances” will be dropped.

In a Written Answer, Mr Straw, who is also Lord Chancellor, said the provisions could have been used “in some rare but very important cases” where there may be “highly sensitive information directly relevant to the circumstances of the death but which cannot be made public in any way.”

“The government felt these changes struck a fair and proportionate balance between the interests of bereaved families, the need to protect sensitive material and judicial oversight of the whole process,” he said.

Mr Straw said that “following further discussions in the House and with interested parties it is clear the provisions still do not command the necessary cross party support and in these circumstances the government will table amendments to remove clauses 11 and 12 (and the equivalent Northern Ireland provisions) from the Bill.

“Where it is not possible to proceed with an inquest under the current arrangements, the government will consider establishing an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 to ascertain the circumstances the deceased came by his or her death. Each case will be looked at on its own individual merits.

“As with the provisions in respect of the certification of coroners’ investigations, we would expect to resort to such a procedure only in very exceptional and rare circumstances.”

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