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Dreadful situation(30 Posts)
My niece was driving home one night before Christmas when she hit pedestrian. Unfortunately the pedestrian died, obviously she has been devastated and has not driven since. The pedestrian was walking down the middle of a country lane, in the dark and wearing dark clothing-there was simply nothing my niece could have done, she wasn't speeding, there has been no suggestion she was using her phone, nothing. She gave a statement to the police, wasn't cautioned or anything and has heard nothing since-although they still have her car. But now she has been summoned to a coroners court. Obviously my sister is beside herself with worry. The family of the pedestrian have told the police they do not blame my niece, but obviously she blames herself dreadfully. Is there anyone who can give me any advice-what will happen at the coroners court, will my niece be charged with death by dangerous driving , could she be arrested at the court, should she have a solicitor? My sister ( and myself) just have no idea what to do. Any advice gratefully received.
What an awful thing to happen for all concerned .Sorry I have no information to offer but how about trying the citizens advice bureau, they may be able to point you in the right direction.
I am so sorry, what an awful situation to be in. I would imagine Coroner's court to give evidence for inquest possibly? I don't think that would be a situation where she was charged. Have you not spoken directly to the Police? There must be an investigating officer/liaison officer who you could speak to. I agree with CAB, they would be able to put you in touch with a solicitor.
My niece won't speak to the police, she has really just been hoping that she wouldn't have to deal with the situation, I know that avoidance is no solution but she simply can't talk about the night-only her boyfriend, parents and myself know what happened, she hasn't told any of her friends, she gave up her job and is, I think, depressed ( although she won't go to the GP/Counselling either) Not very helpful, I know. I shall advise my sister to find a local solicitor and ask his/her advice.
My BIL did the exact same thing. He too felt awful and had many a sleepless night.
At the corners court, his family apologised and said unfortunately if it hadn't been him, it would have been somebody else. It didn't make him feel better but he didn't feel so bad.
He wasn't prosecuted, it was never in the frame to prosecute him as far as the police were concerned.
My thoughts for your BIL, it is an awful thing to happen. Did your BIL know before the coroners court that the police weren't going to prosecute? My niece hasn't heard from the police since January, I think she was hoping this meant there was to be no follow-up, but the coroners court summons has brought it all back and she is now terrified they will arrest her, poor dear.
What a terrible situation to be in.
Getting her to talk about it will help her deal with it. Do try and get her to go to the coroners court. If she hasn't been charged with anything so far I would think they wouldn't be charging her. The coroners court is just to record the cause of death. She can't ignore it forever, it will eat her up. If she's at the coroner's court and they say she wasn't at fault, would that help her do you think?
Armchair diagnosis but it sounds as if she is suffering from PTSD. She does need to be getting help - I wonder if she feels she doesn't 'deserve' it because of what happened?
I'm sure your sister will be able to get reassurance from a conversation with a lawyer or the police, but I came across this, scroll down and you will see:
Will anyone be prosecuted after the inquest?
This is exceedingly uncommon, but is possible. If a death is caused by a criminal act, there should be a police investigation and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will decide whether there is enough evidence to press charges. If this is going to happen, it usually does so before an inquest takes place. However, if evidence or information comes to light during the inquest which might form the basis of a criminal prosecution, the CPS can be asked to reconsider their decision. In practice, this is very rare.
She definitely HAS to go to the coroners court, she has received a summons. Listening to someone tell she she wasn't responsible might help, she is just terrified that they will say she was! My sister thought the police would have been in contact before now-it has been NINE months of nothing. I appreciate she should contact them, but surely it works both ways?
How awful for everyone involved. I'd advise your sister to contact the police.
Ok. I can actually tell you about coroners coyrt fro. Personal experience.
All the internet info and the coroner opening the case I was giving evidence in said very clearly " this is a fact finding process. we need to confirm the identity of the deceased and ascertain when and how he died "
Your neice has to attend. She'll be arrested otherwise. However she will expected simply to give her side of the story. That will involve setting the scene , saying what happened and probably what she did afterwards.
The coroner will hear all sides out , ask questions and the relatives may be able to question her. However the coroner will stop any unfair questions.
This is nug the point at which age will be charged with anything even if there is a garage to be brought. That's police / cos stuff.
Google your local coroner website. Mine is burmingham. There is a lot of really good info there if yours isn't so good - about preparing a statement etc. The key seemed to be a factual narrative of what I did / personally observed and I was questioned on that simply to tell the court my angle on things - I didn't read my statement but basically I still said what was in it !
Our coroner was actually utterly kind and gentle to the family. I felt she assisted me to give my evidence too. I was terrified as it was s professional matter but it was fine.
It's for the inquest. It's separate to the criminal decision. It sounds incredibly unlikely she will be charged now but regardless she was always going to have to give evidence at the inquest so that a verdict as to how the deceased died. The purpose is not to determine if any one is responsible for the death.
There is helpful information here
And copied from that site
Will the inquest establish who is responsible for my friend or relative’s death?
No. The main purpose of an inquest is to establish the cause of death. It cannot blame individuals for the death or establish criminal or civil liability on the part of any named individual(s). Coroners will often say at the beginning of the inquest that their job and that of the jury (if there is one) is to establish the answers to four questions – who the deceased was, where they died, when they died, and how.
But surely how they died includes who was responsible?
No. According to the law it is not the function of an inquest to blame particular individuals involved. The inquest might make criticisms about what happened, but cannot suggest that any individual is liable for someone’s death. Many people are shocked and very disappointed to learn that the inquest cannot seek to establish who may be responsible for the death.
Your niece will also find this leaflet helpful
I am not a professional but you/your sister might find the following links helpful. The first one includes-
A coroner's court is a legal body that helps determine how, when and why a person died. Coroners are independent judicial officers who are usually lawyers or doctors with appropriate training in law.
Unlike criminal trials, inquests don't try to establish whether anyone was responsible for a person’s death. Evidence is given by witnesses but there's no prosecution or defence.
During an inquest, witnesses chosen by the coroner will give evidence. The coroner usually asks the witness to summarise events in their own words before asking them questions to clarify any points.
My dad was killed in a car crash. He pulled out from a minor road onto a major road on a bad bend and was hit by a car coming round the bend. We don't know why he pulled out, but it was clearly not the fault of the poor woman driving the other car. We attended the inquest. She had to stand in the witness box while her statement was read out by the coroner. She was in bits. I felt so sorry for her. There was also a police witness who showed a plan of the road and how the accident had happened - position of skid marks, where the two cars ended up etc. The coroner assured her that she had not been at fault and after the inquest I was able to speak to her and tell her that we felt the same way. I hope that this helped, but I was so sorry that this had been eating away at her for months. I hope that your niece can understand that this is just a process that has to be gone through. If there had been any question that she was at fault, I imagine that she would know this by now.
Thank you, you have all been incredibly helpful. Can anyone provide any information/experiences of being charged before the inquest. I know that one of the extracts above says it is the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will decide whether there is enough evidence to press charges. If this is going to happen, it usually does so before an inquest takes place. which is hopeful but not definitive! Do you think she would have heard before now if the CPS were thinking of prosecuting? ( The inquest is in 3 weeks)
( Sorry, I know this is an unanswerable question, I'm just hoping someone can offer a viewpoint!)
No idea the legal side. My great aunt was knocked down in similar circumstances. None of our family blamed the driver it was an accident.
The driver was pregnant as well I felt dreadful for her.
There's been excellent advice and useful links posted since I started typing, but I'll post anyway:
Your sister could try phoning the coroner's office and asking for advice on what usually happens in the coroner's court. The coroner's officer is usually ex-police, and might be willing to talk through the process with your niece. At the very least, the coroner would probably want to know in advance that your niece is likely to be distressed.
I've never attended an inquest, but I have typed up a couple from the recording that was made - one of which was very similar to your niece's case. Although it was very obviously distressing for all concerned, the coroner kept things very calm.
OP, I'd recommend that you contact the relevant police officer/team if you can work out who, and explain how distressed your niece is. Request that they contact her to clarify if they will be arresting or charging her with any offence. It seems highly unlikely to me, but she will need to hear it from them.
Thank you for all your help, we have a way ahead and will try to encourage my niece to go forward. I don't know how much the police /coroners will tell my sister/myself but we will arm ourselves with as much information as we can from all the links you have all provided. You have all been very kind.
In my situation, the driver of the car that hit and killed my son wasn't arrested at the time of the accident. He was arrested about three months later, interviewed under caution for causing death by dangerous driving and bailed back to the police station. I was informed about a month later that he was not going to be charged, this was about a month before the inquest. I'm not sure but I think an inquest can still go ahead even if criminal charges are pending. An organisation such as Brake or Roadpeace would be able to given you the correct advise. For what it's worth, I would imagine the police would have collected all the evidence they need by now and I'd imagine if there was any case to answer they would have already been in touch
notarehearsal So many people are hurting in this situation. I'm sorry that your son was killed in this way.
I would encourage your niece to speak to her GP about getting some counselling too. It sounds like it's affecting her life, understandably, and she could do with some emotional support, no matter what happens with the inquest. Seeing her GP would start that process off.
to everyone affected by anything like this. So many lives shattered in an instant.
Been to lots of inquests. They are often very short hearings - 20/30 mins to an hour, unless it is something like a death in prison or police custody.
The verdict will almost certainly be accidental death. If your niece wasn't drink or drug driving, not speeding or driving carelessly or recklessly, she wont be charged. If prosecution was likely, she would have been interviewed under caution, arrested and released on police bail at the time. I've only ever known that to happen months later when there has been a fatal crash and the driver at fault has been seriously injured as obviously it wouldn't be appropriate until he or she had recovered.
It is a public court so a relative or friend can go with her, although they wouldn't be allowed to go into the witness stand.
It's good advice to ring the officer investigating the collision for any update re prosecution, although it sounds very unlikely, and the coroner's officer for some advice about what will happen on the day and general etiquette ie everyone has to stand up when the coroner comes in or goes out.
Feel sorry for your poor niece. Hopefully the inquest will help her to understand it wasn't her fault. Maybe after she could have a couple of lessons with an instructor, ot to improve her driving but for the reassurance of dual controls.
Your niece needs to inform her insurers asap if she has not already done so. The "normal" way that the coroners' courts proceed when there has been a road traffic accident is that the person in the other car IS represented as their insurers send a lawyer along. This is because the insurers are looking at this case from a civil claim point of view, namely will your niece be sued in a civil court for causing the death of the person. The insurers therefore have an interest in your niece being represented
If there are already criminal proceedings, your niece will receive advise that under the Coroners' Rules she has not have to answer questions in case she incriminates herself
She must of course attend the hearing or this would be a criminal offence in itself.
She must get legal advice asap - contact the insurers first
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