Important decision ordering new inquest in a police restraint case

Monday 11 June 2007

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The High Court has ordered that a coroner's decision not to permit an inquest jury to consider a verdict of unlawful killing or to leave a narrative verdict to the jury was wrong and has quashed that decision and ordered a fresh inquest before a different coroner and jury. Judgment was given in R (application Helen Cash) v HM Coroner for Northamptonshire [2007] EWHC 1354 (Admin) on 8th June 2007 by Keith J on an application for judicial review brought by Helen Cash, the sister of Malcolm Cash, who died on 5th July 2002.

Malcolm Cash died following intervention against him by a number of police officers, who restrained him on the ground in the garden of the house in which he lived. Police and ambulance staff had been called to the scene, mainly because Mr Cash was in a distressed state and had cut himself. While Mr Cash was standing in the garden, a number of police officers tackled him to the ground, from behind and without warning, restrained him on the ground by a number of police officers then placed him in handcuffs. Immediately after that, Mr Cash's face went blue, he gasped and then stopped breathing.

The coroner had acceded to representations made by the Northamptonshire Police and had refused to leave either any verdict of unlawful killing for the jury's consideration or any narrative verdict that would permit the jury to make findings about the reasons for the force and its extent. The coroner had also refused reasons for this decision. The jury then found that the death had been accidental. Keith J held that there was evidence upon which a verdict of unlawful killing due to unlawful act manslaughter could have been returned and that that should have been left to the jury. He also said that a narrative verdict should have been left to the jury, since a jury should be able to reach judgmental conclusions about the circumstances of the restraint and the degree of force, whether or not that amounts to an unlawful killing.

Click Here to read the judgement

stephen simblet image

Stephen Simblet was counsel for Helen Cash at the inquest and in her judicial review application.

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