Inquest process rife with public misconceptions

Misconceptions over inquest process highlighted by George Gilbey investigation

Misconceptions over inquest process highlighted by George Gilbey investigation

By Jeremy Sirrell, Supervising Director, Palmers Solicitors

The inquest into the death of Gogglebox star George Gilbey began last month, hearing that Mr Gilbey’s injuries were “consistent with a fall from height”.

This series of tragic events, resulting in a formal investigation into the circumstances around the death, has brought to light the vast misconceptions on the public stage surrounding the inquest process.

The inquest process

While many inquests involve cases of public interest, there are plenty of misconceptions surrounding the process which can result in confusion.

It is often the case that inquests are run alongside investigations by other state authorities, such as the Police or the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The purpose of an inquest is to determine who the deceased was, when they died, where they died and how they died – but not to determine whether there was any criminal or other liability.

The inquest is running alongside a criminal investigation in which two men have been arrested and questioned.

Accordingly, inquests are often opened, and then adjourned after a preliminary hearing, whilst other organisations carry out investigations pertinent to their own specialism, usually with a view to determining whether there is a criminal liability of some kind.

In such circumstances, inquests will often start and then be adjourned off, waiting to receive a formal report or at least the result of that investigation. It may then resume in a second or third hearing and the inquest being finalised.

Does public interest impact the case?

From an inquest point of view, no.

Of course, there is significant public interest in this case due to the popularity of Gogglebox and there is likely to be some media presence as a result.

However, this will not affect the coroner in any way. The coroner will conduct their inquest with the concerns of the relatives of the deceased at the forefront of their mind.

Inquests are, first and foremost, an investigation into the death of a person and the most important people at an inquest are the relatives of that person who are given primacy of position.

This of course is very different to a criminal investigation where the relatives of the deceased will be regarded only as potentially useful witnesses during the investigation, with primacy given to state legislation and any potential breaches.

Here it is likely that the inquest will remain adjourned off for many months whilst the Police investigation continues and when it concludes it is likely to resume and with the additional information obtained from the Police during their investigation.

For advice on the inquest process, please contact Jeremy Sirrell at jeremysirrell@palmerslaw.co.uk  or get in touch with a member of our team.