10 May Landmark Judgment by the Court of Appeal – on the standard of proof at inquests and permission to appeal to the Supreme Court granted
The Queen (on the Application of Maughan) v HM Senior Coroner for Oxfordshire case No: C1/2018/1962
Today the Court of Appeal has decided in the case of Maughan that the standard of proof to be applied at inquests in reaching a suicide conclusion should be on the balance of probabilities and for an unlawful killing conclusion beyond reasonable doubt, whether or not it is expressed in a short form conclusion or a narrative conclusion.
The Court of Appeal has recognised the important legal and practical issues raised by this appeal and have therefore today granted the family permission to appeal against their decision to the Supreme Court.
On Friday 10 May 2019, the Court of Appeal handed down their judgment in the case of the Queen (on the Application of Maughan) and HM Senior Coroner for Oxfordshire and the Chief Coroner of England and Wales and Inquest and at the same time granted permission for the family to appeal against their decision to the Supreme Court.
The case was heard at the Court of Appeal before Lord Justice Underhill, Lord Justice Davis and Lady Justice Nicola Davies.
A copy of the full judgment will shortly be available from the Court of Appeal page of the Courts and Tribunals website: https://www.judiciary.uk/court/court-of-appeal/.
Mr Thomas Maughan and his family were represented by Ms Najma Rasul of Mathew Gold Solicitors, Karon Monaghan QC and Jude Bunting were instructing counsel in the matter.
Comment from the family:
The family are deeply disappointed with the decision reached by the Court of Appeal. It cannot be right when someone dies in state custody that the standard of proof for finding a suicide conclusion should be a lower standard of proof compared to an unlawful killing conclusion. This judgment will simply make it easier for suicide conclusions to be returned and for those responsible for their welfare to escape liability. We will continue in our fight for justice for James, on behalf of his family and for his children. We have therefore decided to appeal against the decision of the Court of Appeal to the Supreme Court.
Comment from Ms Rasul:
For decades the standard of proof for suicide and unlawful killing conclusions has been left to develop piecemeal though case law. There is nothing in the Coroners Rules or other legislation which clearly sets out what the appropriate standard of proof should be for reaching a suicide or unlawful killing conclusion. Although the court’s judgment today clarifies this, it creates an untenable situation where bereaved families are left to deal with the social stigma and financial consequences of a suicide conclusion without the protection that the criminal standard of proof would have provided them. Whilst suicide may no longer be a crime, assisted suicide still remains a criminal offence. There is therefore no logical reason why the standard of proof for a suicide conclusion has been reduced to the balance of probabilities, whilst unlawful killing still remains beyond reasonable doubt. Given the serious legal and practical issues raised by this appeal, we consider that it is important that the matter proceeds to the Supreme Court so that the law can finally be clarified.