A short passage in the judgment of Mrs Justice Lang DBE in Daniel -v- St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust  EWHC 23 (QB) highlights the point that the conclusions in other proceedings are not evidence in a civil trial.
- The narrative verdict at an inquest was not admissible evidence for the purpose of civil proceedings.
The claimants were bringing actions for damages under the Human Rights Act following the death of James Best in prison. The death was of natural causes, however it is alleged that there was delay and a failure to treat which amounted to a breach of Articles 2 and 3.
THE JUDGMENT ON THE ISSUES OF THE EVIDENCE IN THE CORONER’S COURT
The Inquest verdict was admitted in evidence, as part of the record of events, but both counsel agreed that the narrative verdict of the jury as to the circumstances of the death were not to be treated as evidence of the truth of their contents, applying the general principle that judgments in other proceedings are not admissible evidence: see Phipson on Evidence (18th ed.) at 43-78; Hollington v F. Hewthorn & Co. Ltd  KB 587. The evidence called at the Inquest differed from the evidence adduced in this trial, which could potentially make a material difference to the conclusions which this court could properly reach. Moreover, an inquest verdict is not intended to form the basis of a finding in a civil claim – section 10(2) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 provides that a determination at an inquest may not be framed in such a way as to appear to determine any question of civil liability. In light of the above, counsel for the Claimant did not pursue her initial submission that the findings of the Inquest ought to be given particular weight as they were part of the investigative procedure required under Article 2.
Both parties had notes of the proceedings (no transcript had been requested). The Defendants’ expert witnesses were provided with a set of notes, and Ms Hunt quoted from them in her report. It was agreed therefore that I ought to see the notes to which she expressly referred. Other than that, it was agreed that the notes should be disregarded.
- Use of external reports in civil proceedings: Hoyle -v- Rogers considered.
- Some witnesses may not be good historians but good historians cannot be witnesses
Other aspects of the case are discussed in Fatal Accident Law at Fatal Incidents: Human Rights and the “Indirect Victim”.