Precedents for coroner's ruling

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 March, 2011, 12:00am

Coroner Michael Chan Pik-kiu's decision to direct the jury to return a narrative verdict - for the first time at an inquest in Hong Kong - follows the Court of First Instance's judicial review of the inquest into the death of a Nepali man shot by a policeman.

The narrative format has previously been used in high-profile inquests in Britain, such as those for Princess Diana and Jean Charles de Menezes - the Brazilian shot dead by police marksmen in London.

In the judicial review in January, lawyers for Dil Bahadur Limbu's widow, Sony Rai, sought to challenge Coroner William Ng Sing-wai's refusal to direct the jury on reaching a narrative verdict.

Limbu was a Nepali man shot dead by a police constable in May 2009. At the end of the 76-day inquest, the jury returned a verdict of lawful killing. The jury did not make any recommendation aimed at preventing similar fatalities.

Lawyers for Rai were unsuccessful in their legal challenge, but the Court of First Instance held that juries could return narrative verdicts, so that they could decide not only on the cause of death but also contributory factors.

In Princess Diana's inquest, the jury answered yes or no to three statements concerning the circumstances of her death. The jury agreed that the princess contributed to her death in the Paris car crash in 1997 by not wearing a seatbelt.

In the De Menezes inquest, the jury was given 12 statements about events on 22 July 2005, the day he was shot. The jury dismissed a statement that De Menezes had acted suspiciously and so contributed to police officers mistaking him as a terrorist.