Law Report: No right to Army report on death: Regina v Secretary of State for Defence, ex parte Sancto: Queen's Bench Division (Mr Justice Rose; 24 July 1992
Mr Justice Rose dismissed an application for judicial review of the refusal by the Secretary of State for Defence, on 23 May 1990, to disclose to the applicants a copy of a board of inquiry report into the death of their son, Kirk Sancto, on 9 June 1985.
Geoffrey Nice QC and Helen Hobhouse (Redfern & Stigant, Chatham) for the applicants;
Stephen Richards (Treasury Solicitor) for the respondent.
MR JUSTICE ROSE said that Kirk Sancto, a 19-year-old sapper, died when two boats engaged in non-operational duties collided in Stanley Harbour. An Army board of inquiry investigated the matter and a copy of its report was supplied to the coroner who held the inquest at Oxford in July 1986. The verdict was accidental death.
Mr and Mrs Sancto attended the inquest, but the Army report was not shown to them. They wrote to the Ministry asking for a copy but were told such reports 'are confidential and cannot be disclosed outside the Ministry of Defence'. The letter of reply contained a detailed account, taken from the Army's report, of what was said to have occurred.
This attributed the collision to the fact that the smaller of the two boats involved was being manoeuvred dangerously by its two-man crew, one of whom was Mr Sancto, and that they were adversely affected by drink.
The applicants were alarmed at the apparent discrepancies between this account and what they had heard at the inquest. The pathologist's report had disclosed no alcohol in the deceased's body and the evidence at the inquest showed no great speed, lack of control or recklessness at the time, though there was evidence suggesting negligence in control of the harbour.
In subsequent correspondence, while maintaining its refusal to disclose the report, the Army appeared to contradict its earlier account, suggesting the boat had been 'handled in a responsible fashion'.
The court's sympathy was entirely with the applicants in their wish to see the report, but neither sympathy nor the law could bring this about. While there could be little doubt that the proceedings of the board of inquiry itself were susceptible to judicial review, an executive decision not to disclose its report was not. In the absence from English law of any Freedom of Information Act, apart from certain statutory exceptions, such as the Data Protection Act, the public did not have any 'right to know'.
Documentary privacy was only susceptible to intrusion in the carefully restricted circumstances of discovery during litigation. There, the rationale consisted of the public interest in justice being done between the parties, whereas here there was no litigation between the parties.
Although the courts had recently added to the category of bodies which were susceptible to judicial review, it was a remedy which still operated only either to protect legal rights or to enforce legal duties. There was no statutory or other legal duty on the Secretary of State to disclose, or to exercise a discretion in relation to the disclosure of, a board of inquiry report.
- 1 Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 2 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 3 George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Lady al-Qa’ida: On the trail of Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the world’s most wanted prisoner
YouTube video posted by Isis militants shows 'execution of 250 Syrian soldiers'
Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >
Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...
£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...
£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...
Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...