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Leigh Day issues judicial review against the Attorney General

Leigh Day & Co acting on behalf of Erica Duggan are seeking permission for a new inquest for Jeremiah Duggan

Photo: istock

6 May 2008

On 8 May 2007, Leigh Day & Co, acting on behalf of Erica Duggan, applied to the Attorney General for her authority to ask the Court for a new inquest into the death of her son, Jeremiah Duggan (Jerry). After almost nine months of waiting for a decision, the Attorney General finally responded and declined the application on 6 February 2008. On 1 May 2008, Frances Swaine and Merry Varney of Leigh Day & Co issued a judicial review against this refusal.

Grounds of challenge

The two main grounds of challenge in the judicial review are that the decision of the Attorney General is irrational, and that the decision is not adequately reasoned.

The first inquest into Jerry's death was held in England in November 2003, where the Coroner reached a narrative verdict that ‘he received fatal injuries when he ran into the road and was hit by two private cars. He had been in a state of terror.’

This verdict left Erica Duggan with many unanswered questions about the circumstances of her son's death, which prompted her to instruct a number of forensic experts to examine the photographs of the scene. The experts independently reached conclusions different from the first inquest verdict. Mr Canning, a forensic photographer, formerly of the Metropolitan Police, stated that he believes "that it is possible that Jerry lost his life elsewhere and was subsequently placed at the scene" Mr Bayle, a forensic scientist of 30 years experience could not find any evidence to show that the two vehicles “ever came into contact with Mr Duggan” and he concluded, “this incident was stage managed”. Four further experts supported these conclusions.

In our view, the evidence of these experts clearly show that there is a real possibility that a fresh inquest would result in a different verdict, and that therefore the Attorney General’s refusal is wholly irrational.

The Attorney General failed to give proper reasons for her refusal, despite taking almost nine months to make a decision and Erica providing a large amount of supporting documents to her application. We consider that due to Erica’s compelling case, fairness requires that full reasons should be given by the Attorney General for her decision.

Is the Attorney General immune from judicial review?

A key question in this case is whether the Attorney General’s refusal can be judicially reviewed. We consider that there are no reasons, policy or otherwise, for this decision not to be subjected to review by the Courts.

Today there is a move towards greater transparency and accountability of public bodies. Any submission by the Attorney General that her decision should be immune from review will wholly contradict this and leave Erica unable to challenge this seemingly highly irrational decision to prevent her from securing a fresh inquest to determine the true circumstances and cause of her son’s death.

Leigh Day & Co are now waiting to hear from the Court whether it will grant permission for this case to be argued. For more information please contact Frances Swaine or Merry Varney on 020 7650 1200.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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Human rights and civil liberties

Who worked on this case

Merry Varney

Specialist Area