The office of Coroner has existed since just after the Norman Conquest, longer than the office of Lord Chancellor. Tony and his flat mate, Charlie, decided to abolish the latter office without consultation and without warning. Worse is now in store for Coroners. They are to be “replaced” or emasculated by Harriet-Harman-lite, the Home Secretary. Coroners were traditionally medically qualified with some legal training. Nowadays they tend to be lawyers. Sir Monty Levine, Jim Callaghan’s family doctor, was one of the best known and well-respected of the doctor-coroners, and dealt with the Stephen Lawrence case.
Coroners have always been a thorn in the side of the establishment. And, when they sit with a jury, they are nigh-on uncontrollable. That is always the trouble when you let independent professionals loose in a democratic country. Two years into World War Two, the case of Liversidge v Anderson was fought in open court. We must never forget Lord Atkin's dissenting judgment, in which he told the Home Secretary, in no uncertain terms, that notwithstanding the Nazi threat, notwithstanding the Battle of Britain, he could not lock-up British citizens without giving reason.
Now the Home Secretary is taking statutory powers not only to suspend habeus corpus but to stop coroners’ courts sitting with juries. She is likely to exercise these powers in the case of terrorist deaths.
Why would the government not want a jury to decide the Jean Charles de Menezes case?