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:
- The initial decision by the Attorney General took almost 9 months.
- 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.
- The Court would require to confirm that to be the case should any judicial review proceedings take place in the David Kelly case.
- 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.
- Reconsideration of the case took a further 10 months.
- 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.
- 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.