Friday, 8 April 2011

The Death of David Kelly - The relevance of the Jeremiah Duggan case

So far as I can establish applications to the Attorney General in the context of Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988 are rare.

In this post I draw attention to various aspects of a case which, at least in some procedural respects, has parallels to the case of the murder of Dr. David Kelly.

On 27th March 2003 Jeremiah Duggan's body was found on a road in Germany. The "obvious" conclusion from the initial evidence was that he had been killed by motor vehicles having, seemingly, run on to the road possibly with the intention of committing suicide.

An investigation was held in Germany (which concluded that the death was suicide) and, subsequently (on 8th November 2003) an inquest was held in London. A narrative verdict was issued.

It is not my purpose to explore the accuracy or otherwise of the cause of death. Here I briefly point out some of the procedural highlights.

Jeremiah's mother, Erica Duggan, applied on 8th May 2007 to the Attorney General under Section 13 of the Coroners Act 1988 for a new inquest to be held into the death of her son:

Baroness Scotland took almost 9 months to give her decision in reponse to the application.

The initial response of the (then) Attorney General (Baroness Scotland) was to refuse Mrs. Duggan's application.

On 6th May 2008, the first steps towards judicial review of the Attorney General's decision were taken: Leigh Day issues judicial review against the Attorney General.

Two main lines of argument in the judicial review were that the Attorney General's decision was irrational and that the decision was inadequately reasoned.

On 5th November 2008, the Administrative Court granted leave to judicially review the Attorney General's decision, Permission granted: the first step towards a fresh inquest is achieved.

On 26th March 2009 the Attorney General withdrew her original decision and undertook to reconsider the case: Attorney General withdraws decision and agrees to promptly reconsider.

That reconsideration of the case took approximately 10 months.

On 21st January 2010 the Attorney General (Baroness Scotland) granted a fiat without a judicial review having been carried out in court. My understanding is that, in effect, Baroness Scotland backed down in light of the cogency of the arguments in the prospective judicial review.

The fiat from the Attorney General enabled Erica Duggan to go to the High Court to ask for an order that an inquest be held into the death of Jeremiah Duggan.

Skeleton arguments are here: CLAIMANT’S SKELETON ARGUMENT FOR HEARING 20TH MAY 2010.

On 20th May 2010 the High Court issued an order that an inquest be held: Permission for UK inquest granted after seven year wait.

I'll briefly list some points which may be relevant to the David Kelly case:

  1. The initial decision by the Attorney General took almost 9 months.

  2. The Administrative Court decided that there was an arguable case that the decision of the Attorney General can be judicially reviewed. This decision took place against a changing background as to accountability. As I understand it, past precedent indicated (in the judicial mindset of the times) that the decision of an Attorney General could not be reviewed.

  3. The Court would require to confirm that to be the case should any judicial review proceedings take place in the David Kelly case.

  4. Failure by the then Attorney General properly to consider all documents led, on the face of matters, to the Attorney General withdrawing an initial refusal.

  5. Reconsideration of the case took a further 10 months.

  6. The absence of objection from the North London Coroner led to a simplifed procedure in the High Court. The possibility that the Oxfordshire Coroner could object in the context of the Kelly case cannot be completely discounted.

  7. The Duggan family were highly active in seeking a worthwhile inquest for Jeremiah. The Kelly family have been startlingly silent for almost 8 years. One wonders why.


  1. Paragraph 23 of CLAIMANT’S SKELETON ARGUMENT FOR HEARING 20TH MAY 2010 (see Page 12) is interesting in that it illustrates the wording of a "fiat" from the Attorney General allowing an applicant to go to the High Court to seek an order that an inquest be held.

  2. I have made the point previously, that a need for an inquest is separate from the need for an investigation into cover up and indeed that is separate to the need of investigation into murder if that is in fact how Dr Kelly met his death.

    The Attorney General in a television interview

    ( )

    Stated that he had seen no evidence of cover up and made a public appeal for it. This is quite different from an appeal for new evidence that would justify an inquest (as the wording of the link suggests)

    I and several others have provided the Attorney General with evidence of cover up; Evidence of the police lying at the Hutton Inquiry, Evidence of fingerprints being removed from items found at the scene, Evidence that the body was moved, Evidence that the cause(s) of death (on the death certificate) in all probability would not have caused death, Evidence of key witnesses being kept away from the inquiry, Evidence of Hutton obfuscating evidence at the inquiry, Evidence that the police failed in their duty to investigate important aspects of the case, Evidence that the pathologists report cannot be trusted and Evidence that Hutton's "verdict" would not have stood up in a Coroner's Court.

    The evidence points towards the police, civil servants and politicians conspiring to pervert the course of justice with regards to how, where and when Dr Kelly died.

    There is no requirement for an inquest to be held before these allegations are investigated, Dominic Grieve asked for evidence of cover up and received ; he said his office was the right place to send it and yet he still has made no move to have the allegations, (supported by strong evidence)investigated.

    Yes these are extremely serious allegations and yes they do implicate very senior figures within the law and justice system, yes the evidence suggests that the government used its employees to cover up very serious crimes.

    But for the Attorney General now not to act and force a proper investigation into cover up, this would inevitably lead to accusations that he and his government are responsible for permitting the cover up to endure.

  3. The Duggan case and that of Kelly are dovetailed together in here