Highly critical narrative conclusion in inquest into death of ‘one punch’ victim

Friday 8 August 2014

Despite the CPS’ decision not to prosecute, a coroner has concluded that the victim, Mr. Christopher Monks, did not deliver a headbutt nor punch people before he was killed. Ifeanyi Odogwu, who represented the family, also secured a Preventing Future Death Report and judgmental findings against two police officers, two public houses and witnesses.

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Christopher Monks died on 24 March 2012 at the District General Hospital, Southport. He had suffered head injuries eight days previously when he was punched outside of a pub in Southport following an altercation. He never regained consciousness.

Senior Coroner for Merseyside, Mr. Christopher K. Sumner, heard evidence from over 30 witnesses at the Southport Coroner’s Court and found that Mr. Monks died as a result of an uppercut punch “of considerable force” by a man named Christopher Whalley.

The key issue in the case was whether Mr. Monks had headbutted Mr. Whalley before the punch was thrown. Mr. Whalley appeared at Southport Police Station after the incident with large swelling on his forehead, stating that he had been headbutted by Mr. Monks and acted in self-defence. Mr. Whalley maintained this account, resulting in a CPS decision not to prosecute.

However, at the inquest, the pathological expert stated that Mr. Whalley’s head injury would have required “significant force”. He specifically looked for evidence of a headbutt on Mr. Monks during his post-mortem examination and confirmed that there was no bruising to Mr. Monks’ forehead adding: “If there had been force, I would have found bruising.”

A persistent feature over the course of the inquest was the apparent collusion and inconsistencies among a number of witnesses associated with Mr. Whalley. After questioning from Ifeanyi, some witnesses were warned of committing perjury by the Coroner.

In a damning narrative, the Coroner concluded:

“…I can conclude that he [Mr. Monks] was neither the deliverer nor the recipient of a headbutt in this incident.

…How Christopher Whalley came to be so injured would involve speculation…I am sure, however, that the injury to Christopher Whalley’s forehead was not caused by contact with the head of Mr Monks…

…The forensic evidence, namely lack of brazing or bruises to the knocks of Mr Monks at autopsy, does not support the theory that he was punching people with any great force, as alleged, or at all….

…I feel that there was a concerted effort by many witnesses to paint Mr Monks in a as bad a light as possible…Equally there were many witnesses who, perhaps conveniently, were looking in another direction, when Mr Monks and Christopher Whalley came together…I am also bound to mention the evidence of Jordan Hall. I felt that his evidence was little more than a tissue of lies…”

The Bold Public House and Lang’s Wine Bar were criticised by the Coroner for “continuing to supply alcohol to persons who were already clearly drunk” and he ruled that they both “must accept some responsibility for the state of affairs”.

Officers from Merseyside Police were named and also criticised for their “actions” and “inactions” after the incident.

After submissions from Ifeanyi, the coroner agreed to write a report and letters to Merseyside Police, The Bold Public House and Lang’s Wine Bar.

The bereaved family had previously campaigned against the CPS decision not to prosecute. Speaking after the inquest, Rosalie Monks, Mr. Monks’ mother told reporters:

“We have waited nearly two and a half years for this. It has been horrendous. What is so hurtful to us as a family, is that it was not just his life they took, they then tried to paint the picture that he was a horrible person – which he wasn’t.”

Mr. Monks’ father Andy added:

“I’m just glad Christopher’s name has been cleared and at last people have the truth.”

This case was reported nationally, including The Liverpool Echo, Southport Visitor, ITV News and local media.

Ifeanyi was instructed by Broudie Jackson Canter.

Ifeanyi Odogwu is a member of Garden Court’s Inquests Team.

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