Letter: Death watch

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The Independent Online
Sir The furore around the "three-minute inquest" into the death of Ronnie Kray ("Kray's inquest condemned", 21 March) highlights one of the many anomalies and, we consider, failings of the Coroner's Act 1988. Under the Act, a coroner is obliged to hold an inquest if someone dies

a violent or unnatural death, a sudden death of which the cause is unknown or died in prison ...

and also to hold that inquest in front of a jury if the death occurred "in prison or in police custody".

While it is correct that, under current law, a jury is not necessary at an inquest into a death at a Special Hospital, Inquest supports Sir Louis Blom-Cooper's recommendations in the Ashworth Report, 1992. The report recommended that inquests should be held with a jury

in all cases of a death occurring in any form of legal custody [and that] coroners should invariably exercise their discretion and order an inquest with a jury whenever a person dies in a Special Hospital irrespective of the perceived cause of death.

It must be in the public interest that all deaths of people detained in custody should be thoroughly investigated in order to ensure that standards of medical care are adequate, to make recommendations on any inadequate procedures, and to ensure that any government institution is fully accountable.

Yours faithfully,




London, N4

21 March