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Coroners do not have powers to request disclosure of information that has already been determined by the AAIB

R(Secretary of State) v Her Majesty’s Chief Coroner for Norfolk (British Airline Pilots intervening) [2016] EWHC 2279

The High Court has ruled that coroners do not have a power to order disclosure of the transcript and/ or recording from a cockpit flight recorder, or to issue fines for failure to comply. 

A helicopter crash resulted in the deaths of four men in 2014.  The matter had previously been investigated by the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) and the coroner ordered disclosure of the transcript/ flight recordings.  The High Court held that the only court with power to make such orders is the High Court itself and no such legislative power had been conferred on the coroner.  The coroner argued that although the AAIB had investigated matters in order to determine cause of death, the circumstances may in fact suggest that it was not accidental, e.g. natural causes or suicide.

Singh J ruled that ‘there is no public interest in having unnecessary duplication of investigations or inquiries.’  He further added that the AAIB is an independent body with expertise in this field and could not see why Parliament would have intended to enact a legislative scheme to permit the coroner to consider the same ground, even though she is not such an expert.

The Lord Chief Justice agreed and stated that, ‘The coroner would comply sufficiently with the duties of the coroner by treating the findings and conclusions of the report of the independent body as the evidence as to the cause of the accident.’  He suggested that to do otherwise would result in significant sums of money and resources being expended needlessly and stated that, ‘where there is no credible evidence that the investigation is incomplete, flawed or deficient, the findings and conclusions should not be reopened.’

Read UK Human Rights Blog article here.

ECHR Art. 2, Other Public Interest Cases, Right to Life