Gibraltar unlawful killing inquest verdict quashed on appeal


Jamas Hodivala KC, instructed for the appeal by Charles Bonfante and Darren Martinez at Hassans International, succeeded before the Gibraltar Court of Appeal (Sir Maurice Kay P, Sir Nigel Davies JA and Sir Adrian Fulford JA) in quashing an inquest jury’s conclusion of unlawful killing based on gross negligence manslaughter. The Court ordered a fresh inquest.

Royal Gibraltar Police’s Marine Section officers were on a police interceptor vessel and became involved in a night-time high-speed pursuit of a high-powered vessel suspected of couriering drugs from Morocco into mainland Europe. The suspect vessel attempted numerous evasive manoeuvres, culminating in the police interceptor tragically passing over the top of the suspect vessel, killing two of the RHIB’s occupants. The Coroner left the inquest jury to consider alternative conclusions of unlawful killing (based on gross negligence manslaughter) and accident, but the Court of Appeal agreed that the Coroner’s directions on gross negligence manslaughter were materially wrong and remitted the case for a fresh inquest.

Chief Coroner’s Law Sheet No 1 provides incomplete guidance on gross negligence manslaughter. The judgment provides welcome guidance to coroners on directing juries in gross negligence manslaughter cases, including the requirement for a coroner to assist the jury with “all the circumstances” that may be relevant to the question of breach of duty as well as identifying specific acts or omissions capable of amounting to a breach of duty. The Court of Appeal also agreed that the Coroner should have provided direction on the requirement for a serious and obvious risk of death.

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