In order for an inquest jury to return a verdict of "unlawfully killed", it must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that death resulted from criminal homicide.
Where such verdicts are returned, as they were in the cases of Richard O'Brien and Shiji Lapite, the authorities have a ready-made indication that another jury in a criminal trial would convict those responsible for the death. What clearer evidence could the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) require to prompt it to prosecute? In most cases it must just guess what a jury would make of the facts.
It is the privilege of the coroner's jury to have the facts of a case examined for them in great detail during an inquest with as many witnesses and experts testifying as it takes to discover how the deceased came by his death. It is therefore perverse for the unequivocal verdict of "unlawfully killed" to be disregarded by the CPS in cases where there is no doubt about whose conduct was intimately linked to the deaths in question.
Dr GARY SLAPPER
The Law School