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Friday, 20 October 2006

Kelly Inquest Quitter Coroner Helps Avoid Enquiry into Dead Solders

Because the bodies of service personnel killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan are flown to RAF Brize Norton, Oxon, it is the Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Garner who should have been conducting the backlog of 111 inquests now due.

Nicholas Garner was the coroner who aborted his inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly. Under the 1999 section 17A amendment to the 1988 Coroners Act, provision was made that if the Lord Chancellor tells a coroner there is to be a public enquiry (into the events surrounding the death) before the coroner's inquest is likely to be completed, the coroner shall adjourn their inquest. This is only if the Lord Chancellor considers it is 'likely' the cause of death will also be investigated by the inquiry and that there is an absence of any exceptional reason to the contrary.

The Lord Chancellor was wrong to allow the presumption that Dr David Kelly's cause of death would be adequately investigated within the terms of the inquiry he had called for 'to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death' and with witness evidence not to be taken under oath. The coroner Nicholas Gardiner should have recognised the 'exceptional reason to the contrary' within the inquiry's terms and procedures allotted and hence should not have adjourned his inquest before establishing cause of death.

The same Coroners Act section 17A amendment could now be legitimately deployed to save the Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Garner conducting these multiple individual inquests, supplanting that process with an all encompassing inquiry into 'the circumstances leading to and surrounding the deaths of these 111 servicemen'. There is not so much doubts as to how each of these men were killed but a honest answer to how they were caused to go to war would be revealing.

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