State (McKeown) v Scully

JurisdictionIreland
JudgeMr. Justice O'Hanlon
Judgment Date01 January 1986
Neutral Citation1985 WJSC-HC 1392
Docket NumberNo. 646 SS/1984,[1984 No. 646 SS]
CourtHigh Court
Date01 January 1986
McKEOWN v. SCULLY

Between:

The State (At the Prosecution of Angela McKeown)
Prosecutor

And

Dr. Thomas E. Scully
Respondent

1985 WJSC-HC 1392

No. 646 SS/1984

The High Court

Synopsis:

CORONER

Inquest

Verdict - Suicide - Verdict not available - Statutory exclusion of questions of criminal liability - Next-of-kin - Notice of inquest not served on relatives - Verdict of suicide quashed on certiorari - Coroners Act, 1962, s. 30 - (1984 No. 646 SS - O'Hanlon J. - 29/4/85). - [1986] IR 524 - [1986 ILRM 133

The State (McKeown) v. Scully

CRIMINAL LAW

Suicide

Coroner - Inquest - Verdict of suicide not available - Verdict of suicide quashed on certiorari - Coroners Act, 1962, s. 30 - (1984 No. 646 SS - O'Hanlon J. - 29/4/85).- [1986] IR 524 - [1986] ILRM 133

The State (McKeown) v. Scully

NATURAL JUSTICE

Fair procedures

Notice - Absence - Coroner's inquest - Relatives of deceased not informed - Verdict of suicide quashed on certiorari - Coroners Act, 1962, s. 30 - (1984 No. 646 SS - O'Hanlon J. - 29/4/85). - [1986] IR 524 - [1986] ILRM 133

The State (McKeown) v. Scully

Citations:

BENDER V OWNERS OF STEAMSHIP ZENT 1909 2 KB 41

CORONERS ACT 1962

CORONERS ACT 1962 S30

CORONERS ACT 1962 S32

R V CARDIFF CORONER 1970 3 AER 469

R V HM CORONER FOR THE CITY OF LONDON 1975 3 AER 538

R V HUNTBACH 1944 2 AER 453

SUICIDE ACT 1961

1

Judgment of Mr. Justice O'Hanlon, delivered the 29th April, 1985.

2

In this case an inquest was held at the Courthouse, Drogheda, on the 2nd August, 1984, for the purpose of inquiring into the circumstances surrounding the death of Kevin McKeown, the deceased husband of the Prosecutor. The Respondent sat in his capacity as Corner for County Louth, with a jury summoned for the purpose of the said inquest.

3

The record of the verdict returned at the inquest was signed by the Respondent and by the foreman of the jury, (as required by Sec. 32 of the Coroners Act, 1962). It identifies the deceased as "Kevin McKeown". The date and place of death are given as "14th May, 1984 - Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda", and under the heading, "Cause of Death", the record reads as follows "

"(a) Multiple Injuries (b) Accident on Railway Line (c)Suicide."

4

The Prosecutor seeks to quash so much of the record of the verdict as includes a finding of suicide, and she does so on two grounds. In the first place she relies on the provisions of Sec. 30 of the Coroners Act, 1962, which reads as follows:-

"30. Questions of civil or criminal liability shall not be considered or investigated at an inquest and accordinglyevery inquest shall be confined to ascertaining the identity of the person in relation to whose death the inquest is being held and how, when and where the death occurred."

5

She contends that the coroner and jury exceeded the jurisdiction conferred on them by the statute in considering the issue of suicide and on the jury's part in bringing in a verdict of suicide.

6

Secondly, the Prosecutor relies on the circumstance, which is not disputed by the Coroner, that no notice of the holding of the inquest was given to the next-of kin of the deceased, so that they had no opportunity to be represented at the inquest or to make evidence available which could have had a material bearing on the decision of the jury if it was open to them to bring in a verdict of suicide.

7

I am of opinion that these submissions are well-founded. It was obviously intended by Sec. 30 of the Act of 1962 that it should not be open to a coroner's jury to bring in a verdict that a named person had unlawfully killed the deceased and, by analogy, I would hold that it was not intended that it should be open to them to find that the...

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