HC -v- His Majesty’s Acting Senior Coroner for the Somerset Area (anonymity order)
Administrative CourtHigh CourtKing's Bench DivisionAnonymity Order
Case number: CO/879/2023
In the High Court of Justice
King’s Bench Division
9 March 2023
The Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE
The King on the application of
HC (by his mother and litigation friend CC)
His Majesty’s Acting Senior Coroner for the Somerset Area
Daniel Selwood (Interested party)
On the Claimant’s application for anonymity, urgent consideration; expedition and abridgment of time for the Defendant to file an Acknowledgment of Service;
Following consideration of the documents lodged by the Claimant;
Order by the Honourable Mrs Justice Lang DBE
- Pursuant to CPR r.39.2, in any report of these proceedings, there shall be no publication of the name and address of the Claimant and his litigation friend, nor any other particulars likely to lead to their identification. In the proceedings, the Claimant shall be anonymised and referred to as “HC” and the litigation friend shall be anonymised and referred to as “CC”.
- The Claimant’s solicitors shall file with the Court copies of case documents which have been anonymised and/or redacted to protect the identity of the Claimant and his litigation friend, in accordance with paragraph 1 above.
- Non-parties may not obtain any documents from the court file which have not been anonymised and/or redacted to protect the identity of the Claimant and his litigation friend, in accordance with paragraph 1 above, save with the leave of the Court.
- The claim is to be expedited.
- The Defendant’s time for filing an Acknowledgment of Service and Summary Grounds of Resistance is abridged to 23 March 2023.
- By 23 March 2023, the parties in this claim, and in R(MB) v His Majesty’s Acting Senior Coroner for the Somerset Area CO/214/2023 are to file and serve written representations on:
a. whether this claim should be linked for permission and/or hearing with R(MB) v His Majesty’s Acting Senior Coroner for the Somerset Area CO/214/2023; and if so,
b. whether a rolled-up hearing would be appropriate.
- The applications for interim relief and permission, are to be placed before a Judge for further consideration, together with the question whether this claim should be linked with CO/214/2023, as soon as reasonably possible after the filing of the Acknowledgment of Service.
- Liberty to apply to vary or discharge this order on 2 days notice to the other party.
- Costs reserved.
This is a challenge to (1) the Defendant’s decision dated 18 October 2022 to require the Claimant to provide a witness statement; and (2) the Defendant’s decision dated 10 February 2023 to decline the Claimant’s request to direct further submissions or a hearing in respect of the need to provide a witness statement, and the refusal to grant the Claimant anonymity.
The Claimant is concerned by the fact that the police recently attended a Wales RFC match on 4 March 2023 to effect personal service of statutory notices under Schedule 5 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, seeking information, including the identity of the Claimant, in circumstances where the Defendant has declined to give any undertakings in respect of the matters that are the subject of this claim. I have not heard the Defendant’s explanation for this step, but I am sure that I do not need to remind her that, when a judicial review claim is pending, she should refrain from taking steps which may undermine the efficacy of this Court’s supervisory jurisdiction over her.
There is another claim arising out of the same death, and raising similar issues, which was issued earlier than this one: R(MB) v His Majesty’s Acting Senior Coroner for the Somerset Area CO/214/2023. In that claim, pleadings have been filed by both parties, but a permission decision has not yet been taken. I believe that the same counsel and solicitors are acting for the Claimants in both claims. This claim is distinguishable on the basis that it has been made significantly out of time, and so permission might be refused for that reason. However, if MB’s claim proceeds and is ultimately successful, it will be difficult for the Defendant to justify treating the Claimant differently, on grounds of delay in bringing his claim.
I have given the parties an opportunity to make representations as to whether the two claims should be linked and considered by the same Judge on the same occasion, before the Court decides this matter.
The deceased sadly died more than 3 years ago, in January 2020, and the inquest is listed for 12 July 2023. It would be most unfortunate if this claim were to delay the inquest. An order for expedition is required to ensure that it does not do so, if at all possible.
A rolled-up hearing may achieve a more speedy resolution of the claim/s, and I have invited representations from the parties on that matter, for the permission judge to consider.
To expedite matters, I have abridged time for the Defendant to file her Acknowledgment of Service and Summary Grounds. I consider that the Defendant will be able to comply with this timetable, as she has the advantage of already having drafted her Acknowledgment of Service and Summary Grounds in the MB case, as well as having considered this claim in pre-action protocol correspondence.
I have granted the Claimant and his litigation friend orders for anonymity in these proceedings for two reasons. First, because the Claimant is a minor. Second, as one of the issues in this claim is whether he is entitled to anonymity at the inquest, it would defeat the object of the claim if his identity were to be made public in these proceedings. These considerations outweigh the public interest in open justice.