Court upheld Duggan ‘lawful killing’ finding despite judicial review


Re: R (Duggan) v HM Assistant Deputy Coroner for the Northern District of Greater London & Ors [2014] EWHC 3343

In Aug 2011 Mark Duggan was shot dead by a police officer. The inquest into his death concluded that he was ‘lawfully killed’. This was a Judicial Review against that finding.

The claimant sought to challenge the decision of coroner on 4 different grounds. Firstly the coroner ought to have directed the jury that if they were sure that Mr Duggan did not have a gun at the moment he was shot, they could not return a conclusion of lawful killing. Secondly, the mistaken belief of an imminent threat must also be a reasonable mistake. Thirdly, the coroner misdirected the jury on the meaning of lawful killing. Fourthly, lethal force by a state agent is only lawful if it is ‘absolutely necessary’ and not simply that it was ‘reasonable’.

The claimants were granted permission to proceed with grounds 2 and 3, but the Court refused the application nonetheless.

With regard to ground 2 the Court noted that the test for self-defence was different in criminal and civil law. Both tests required the defendant to subjectively believe their safety was in danger, but the civil law required that subjective belief to be objectively reasonable. However, the Court made it clear that it has never been the function of an inquest to concern itself with civil liability for a death. Further a conclusion of lawful killing within the civil definition would be contrary to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, s 10(2)(b).

Nor was the Court satisfied that the ECtHR jurisprudence aligned the test for breach of ECHR, art 2 with the English civil law test.

With regard to ground 3, the Court accepted that the direction of the coroner could have been fuller, but did not accept that the direction given was acceptable.

Jonathan Glasson QC was involved in this case