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Gosport Independent Panel

Chapter 8: The inquests



In the period from 2002 to 2006, the documents show how Hampshire Constabulary updated the Coroner – first James Kenroy and, from 2003, David Horsley – on the progress of Operation Rochester (HCO004539, p3; PCO000082). In December 2006, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided that there would be no criminal prosecutions (CPS002008).


The CPS decision cleared the way for inquests to be held. Mr Horsley formed a provisional view on holding inquests into the ten deaths of the Category 3 cases (HCO002544). This chapter explains what the documents reveal about the inquest process for those cases from that point, including the protracted delay at the start and the basis on which some cases were included in the inquests while others were not. The chapter goes on to explain what the documents show in the case of Gladys Richards, which was not one of the Category 3 cases referred by the police.


In some circumstances, inquests can proceed through a public inquiry. Only a government minister can establish a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005. Ordinarily when this decision is made a Coroner must suspend his investigation. There is no set rule as to when an inquiry, instead of an inquest, should take place. However, it has been stated that inquiries may be preferable to inquests where public concern extends significantly beyond a death itself to wider related issues.1 This chapter shows how the Coroner raised this possibility, which was then rejected.


The chapter concludes by considering what the documents show about: the legal representation of families and the associated funding; the argument that the inquests should have proceeded on the basis that Article 2 of the Human Rights Act was engaged; the possible application of Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984, where the Coroner believes that action should be taken to prevent the recurrence of similar deaths; the decision to hold the inquests with a jury; and the treatment of expert evidence.

  1. 1.

    House of Lords Select Committee on the Inquiries Act, 2005. The Inquiries Act 2005: Post-Legislative Scrutiny, 11 March 2014, HL 143, 2013–2014, paragraphs 87–8.