Coroner agrees to resume inquest into death of domestic homicide victim Lucy-Anne Dyson following judicial review

The High Court has ordered by consent that the Coroner for Portsmouth, Hampshire and Southampton resume an Article 2 inquest into the death of Lucy-Anne Dyson. Lucy-Anne was killed in June 2019 by her husband Sean Dyson, who pleaded guilty to murder part way through his trial at Winchester Crown Court in December 2019.

In the year prior to her murder, Lucy-Anne was subjected to two serious assaults by Mr Dyson which were reported to Dorset and Hampshire police. Mr Dyson was never interviewed or arrested in relation to these incidents.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct found failings of police conduct and risk assessment in relation to both incidents, although the officers in question were not charged with misconduct and so no hearings took place. A Local Authority Domestic Homicide Review found failings in risk assessment and information sharing between the Police and other agencies.

In October 2021 the Area Coroner refused to exercise his discretion to resume the inquest into Lucy-Anne’s death following the murder trial in order to investigate the alleged police and other stage agency failings in the run up to Lucy-Anne’s death. He held that the investigative duty under Article 2 ECHR was not engaged in relation to the alleged failures to protect Lucy-Anne’s life, and in any event if it applied, the investigative duty had already been discharged by the previous state investigations.

Lucy- Anne’s family issued judicial review proceedings against the Coroner’s decision, arguing that he had made an error of law in relation to the threshold for the engagement of the investigative duty, and that the duty had not been discharged by the existing investigations.

It was argued that the Jordan v United Kingdom 37 EHRR 52 criteria for fulfilment of the investigative duty could not be satisfied in a domestic homicide case where the criminal trial had not investigated the alleged failures; and the IOPC and DHR investigations were conducted in private with no evidence being heard, no disclosure made available, and limited involvement of the family.

The Coroner actively defended the claim by way of a Defence relying on the case of Grice [2020] EWHC 3581 (Admin) to state that, in any event if it applied, the investigative duty had already been discharged by the previous state investigations. Following the filing of a Reply and evidence setting out the family’s limited involvement in the previous investigations, accepted that the investigative duty is engaged.

By consent the Coroner agreed to an order that Article 2 applies to the case, that the inquest be resumed, and to pay the Claimant’s costs of the judicial review.

Lucy-Anne’s family are represented by Gold Jennings’ Rachel Etheridge and Matthew Gold with Rob Hamill, Alex Hogg and Elinor Kirchwey. James Robottom of Matrix Chambers acts as Counsel.