Inquests into a death caused by police shooting

When somebody dies after being shot by an armed police officer, whose role is to serve and protect the public, it’s a devastating tragedy for their families and loved ones to deal with.

Such incidents always attract a lot of media attention, which often only adds to the trauma for families, as even if eye-witness accounts cannot be verified as being wholly accurate, the circumstances leading up to the shooting will be widely reported.

This can leave the deceased’s relatives angry, frustrated and confused, and often in the weeks and months after the incident, little information is forthcoming from the police and any other involved agencies as investigations are launched.

It is also imperative that serious questions are asked as to whether there was any way the individual’s death could have been avoided, and how and why events unfolded as they did, ending in the loss of life.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) will investigate the police’s actions in the matter and draw its own conclusions as to whether the force involved acted appropriately, or whether there were areas of failings or possible misconduct.

An inquest will also always be held by a coroner to ensure a full and transparent investigation has taken place, and to ensure all involved have been held to account for taking decisions which ultimately led to the fatality.

Under such difficult circumstances, families will often be left with a lot of unanswered questions about what happened in the time immediately before the fatal shot was fired.

Our specialist Inquest Solicitors can help by helping families gain a better understanding of their loved one’s last moments, and in ensuring all aspects of the tragic event are fully questioned and investigated.

Even in the most testing of circumstances, the police have a duty to protect an individual’s ‘right to life’ under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

This is not to say that a decision to shoot, leading to loss of life, is always wrong. However, when something does goes wrong, serious questions need to be asked.

With fatal police shootings, it’s important to establish whether or not there was a perceived danger from the deceased (to the public and police) and how realistic that danger was.

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Andrew Petherbridge

Lawyer and Head of Civil Liberties

Karl Griffin

Team Supervisor, Civil Liberties

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Here are some of the type of questions we would typically look to ensure were answered following a fatal police shooting;

  • Were suitable steps taken to try to prevent a fatality?
  • What consideration was given to the deceased’s mental health?
  • Did the deceased show symptoms of Excited Delirium Syndrome?
  • What was the perceived danger from the deceased? How realistic was it?
  • Was the decision to use lethal force necessary and proportionate?
  • Were alternative methods of force (Taser, CS spray) considered and used?
  • How did access to information influence the decision-making process and was it correct and appropriate?
  • Did any police failings cause or contribute to the death?
  • Were any policies or procedures broken or ignored?
  • Have any misconduct notices been issued to any police officers as a result?
  • Was a suitable level of medical care provided?

What is the role of an inquest solicitor?

At Hudgell Solicitors, our inquest solicitors always offer clear advice to ensure the deceased’s loved ones can cope with the stress and strain of the inquest process.

When representing families and relatives, we can:

  • Look after your interests at all times.
  • Conduct all contact with the police and Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).
  • Obtain reports and information from the relevant state bodies.
  • Secure CCTV footage or other relevant recordings.
  • Analyse any medical evidence and the post-mortem report.
  • Look at the role the police force played in the death – and investigate whether any of their failings caused or contributed to it.
  • Act as a ‘properly interested person’ on your behalf at the inquest.
  • Ask questions to key witnesses or officers in attendance at the inquest.
  • Secure policy changes – to ensure other families don’t suffer in the same way.
  • Hold anyone responsible for the death accountable – through criminal and/or disciplinary proceedings.
  • Make representations to the coroner if you disagree with the final decision.
  • Challenge a Coroner’s decision in the High Court – via a judicial review or Attorney General’s Fiat.
  • Call for previously-held inquests to be reopened and reheard should new evidence comes to light at a later date.
  • Bring a claim for compensation through the Civil courts.

If you’d like us to make sure a coroner conducts a full and fearless inquiry into your loved one’s death, please get in touch and discuss your case in confidence.

Latest Cases

Family of Lewis Skelton want inquest to bring clarity and ‘identify if anything should have been done differently’ to prevent fatal shooting

A pre-inquest review took place this morning at Hull Coroner’s Court into the death of Lewis Skelton, who was shot dead by officers from Humberside Police in November 2016. Mr Skelton, 31, died after ‘two live rounds’ were shot at
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“Perhaps most importantly of all, they will look for this process to identify whether anything could and should have been done differently which would have prevented Lewis’ life from being taken.”

Andrew Petherbridge