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Newspaper demands probe into coroner’s naming ban

A regional daily has demanded an investigation into the conduct of a coroner who refused to name a dead man at an inquest.

As reported by HTFP last week, Oxfordshire coroner Darren Salter refused to name a man who died of a drink and drugs overdose despite protests by the Oxford Mail.

Now the Mail has decided to take the issue further in the hope of clarifying the law around the conduct of inquests.

It has written to both the Chief Coroner and the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office asking them to look into Mr Salter’s handling of the hearing.

Mr Salter refused to name the man – known only as Christopher H in court – on the grounds that he had an “unusual surname” and that children related to him might be put at risk.

The Mail later named the man in its print edition but stopped short from doing so online in recognition of the coroner’s wishes, while continuing to maintain he was wrong in law.

Section 11 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 states that inquests should be held in public unless for reasons of national security, while Section 10 states that inquests are held in order to determine the name of the deceased person and how they died.

In its letter to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, the paper argued that Mr Salter’s decision not to identify the man constituted a failure to fulfil his judicial obligations and duties.

Assistant editor Jason Collie told HTFP: “We have cited rule 11 that states an inquest must be held in public and Section 10 which states the coroner record must record who has died, and said it is logical that a coroner has to identify the deceased otherwise the inquest is rendered pointless.

“It will be interesting to see if the JCI takes this on because too often newspapers at the end of an incorrect decision by a coroner have realistically had no where to go because of the expense of seeking a review in a higher court.

“We are also asking the Chief Coroner to have a look at Mr Salter’s decision because we feel he should offer guidance given not identifying the deceased in an inquest has to run contrary to his guidance to coroners for transparency.

“We are, though, only seeking a ruling that this cannot be repeated rather than any sanction of Mr Salter because he did do the wrong thing for the right reason. It’s a precedent that needs overturning and that is why we are taking this forward.”


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  • March 31, 2014 at 10:22 am

    For too long coroners have played fast and loose with the rules.

    I was in one once when the coroner warned a pathologist that “the press are in attendance so be mindful” before he gave evidence.

    Quite why I have no idea and it was into the death of a person during surgery so his evidence was the key to the case.

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  • March 31, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Please keep us informed on this case, HTFP. This is incredibly important.

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  • March 31, 2014 at 11:35 am

    This is not just happening in Oxford. I hear regular stories of coroners imposing their own rules which are totally against the spirit of the law and past guidance from higher up. I hope Jason and Simon O’Neill stop this from becoming the norm and give the rest of us a test case we can quote when tackling other coroners. Good luck.

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