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Rights of Life and Death: Shootings by police officers and the coroner’s inquisitorial process

Citation: Tagliavini, Lorna (2020) Rights of Life and Death: Shootings by police officers and the coroner’s inquisitorial process. Doctoral thesis, School of Advanced Study.

Lorna Tagliavini PhDFinal2.pdf

Creative Commons: Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

This thesis examines to what extent the introduction of Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights, has contributed to a growth in adversariality at an inquest, where the death has occurred as a result of a police shooting. The inquisitorial ‘no blame’ forum of the coroner’s court is used for investigating these deaths in England and Wales and it is these inquests that are among the most contentious. The engagement of Article 2 to inquests through the enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998, requires the coroner to include matters of police policy and planning as well as the procedures followed by the firearms officers in implementing the operation that led to the death.

The investigative limb of Article 2 embodied in the modernising legislation of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, requires the coroner to ensures the bereaved are able to actively participate in all preparatory stages of the inquest of their family member which concludes with a final hearing. As a consequence, contentious deaths have become increasingly complex, lengthy and approached as an adversarial process rather than the coroner-led inquisitorial inquests that were held during the 1990’s. Although an inquest determination of ‘unlawful killing’ can provide the bereaved with a public acknowledgment of their loss, it has also led to an increased expectation that a prosecution and conviction of a firearms officer will result. The determinations of ‘lawful killing’ reached by inquest juries indicate that the degree of accountability sought by the bereaved is not achieved through the inquest. However, the pursuit of a determination of ‘unlawful killing’ contributes to the undermining of the inquest’s inquisitorial function.

This thesis examines the inquests that resulted from a police shootings between 1990 and 2018 and includes three distinct periods in the coronial service. This research shows that there is a correlation between the application of Article 2 to inquests and an increasingly adversarial approach from the opening of the inquest to the final hearing. At the same time, this adversariality does not appear to provide the bereaved with the expected outcome or degree of accountability sought, while it undermines the purpose of the inquest and calls into question its fitness for purpose.

Creators: Tagliavini, Lorna and
Subjects: Law
Keywords: Coroner, police shootings, Article 2, inquest, inquisitorial process
Divisions: Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Collections: Theses and Dissertations
  • 31 December 2020 (completed)


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