source: Lives; Running
published: 2 October 2014
Inquests are the first legal investigation which takes place when a person has died violently, suddenly or in prison. They are on oath. They take place in a courtroom.
They are controlled by a coroner who is, in this setting, effectively a Judge. Blair’s inquest began properly on 28 April 1980, almost exactly a year after his death. It had been delayed because of a series of decisions of the Coroner, John Burton, which had been challenged and partially overturned by the Higher Courts
One decision of Burton’s was to sit without a jury. This was a surprising decision. Juries are not mandatory in inquests but they are common, and they have to be sworn where a death occurs in circumstances whose repetition would be prejudicial to health or safety.
For Blair’s family and friends, the issue was straightforward; Southall was a police riot, should it be repeated, then other people would be injured or killed.