Judge criticises inquest ruling

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REASONS given by a coroner for deciding not to allow an inquest jury to consider a verdict of unlawful killing on the death of a prisoner were 'plainly wrong', a High Court judge said yesterday.

Mr Justice Jowitt gave Koto Diesa permission to challenge in the Divisional Court a ruling by Dr Douglas Chambers, the St Pancras coroner, to limit the jury's choice of verdicts in the case of his uncle, Omasase Lumumba, 32, a relative of the assassinated first prime minister of Zaire.

Mr Lumumba died in a strip cell at Pentonville prison, north London, on 8 October 1991, while awaiting a decision on his application for political asylum.

Dr Chambers told jurors they should consider only accident, misadventure or open verdicts. Unlawful killing was not an option because there was no evidence Mr Lumumba had been 'killed'.

The judge said it was for Dr Chambers to decide whether to rethink, or to wait for the Divisional Court to give its decision.