James Robottom and Rose Harvey-Sullivan have written a blog for Lexis Nexis considering the case R (on the application of Maughan) (Appellant) v Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for Oxfordshire (Respondent) [2020] UKSC 46.

The Supreme Court held that the standard of proof required in order to reach determinations of suicide and unlawful killing at inquests is the balance of probabilities, and not beyond reasonable doubt. All inquest conclusions are now to be found to the civil standard of proof. Supreme Court inquest authorities, particularly ones that are not dependent on the requirements of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, are rare. And Maughan is of great importance for all inquest law practitioners.

The court referred to the changing role of inquests in modern society: they are no longer so closely aligned with the criminal justice system, but are important tools for investigating causes of death and preventing future deaths from occurring where possible.

The Supreme Court’s decision also reflects society’s changing attitude to mental health, in particular the fact that there is no longer such a stigma associated with deaths by suicide. The approach to cases of unlawful killing is less straightforward.

James and Rose consider what this will mean for inquests as a whole. Read more here.


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