THE public and the media consistently misunderstand the purpose of inquests, a Court of Appeal judge said yesterday. Mr Justice Mortimer was giving his reasons for dismissing a coroner's bid to reinstate lack of care verdicts in the death of two China Light and Power (CLP) engineers, killed in a gas explosion at the Castle Peak power station in Tuen Mun on August 28, 1992. He said juries were pressed to bring in lack of care verdicts to influence any claims by a deceased's family against an employer. 'This is wholly objectionable,' Mr Justice Mortimer said. 'The sooner the public and the media can be brought to realise that it is not the purpose of a coroner's inquest to establish whether, and to what extent, some third party was to blame for the accident the better. 'It is widely and quite wrongly believed that the main purpose of a coroner's inquest . . . is to lay the foundation for a civil claim for damages against any person who, in the opinion of the coroner's jury, was to blame for the deceased's death.' Coroner's juries are, in fact, directed not to embark on this task. The question of blame was for the ordinary courts and not the coroner's courts, Mr Justice Mortimer said. The findings of a coroner's court were not relevant to any issue which the ordinary courts had to determine, he said. The judge said a coroner's inquest was unsuitable for looking into breaches of statutory duty by employers. There was no legal basis for the directions Coroner Warner Banks gave the jury in the CLP case, and Mr Justice Mortimer said he seemed to have confused the lack of care verdict with the common law duty of care. Such a verdict should be confined to a situation where the physical neglect of one person dependent on the other had caused or contributed to death. At the first inquest into the death of Yip Ka-pui, 40, and Wong Kwon-yu, 38, a verdict of death by accident was returned in May 1993. Two reports came to light later and the coroner re-opened the inquest in November that year. At this inquest, the jury returned a verdict of death due to lack of care, on the basis that CLP owed a duty of care to the deceased. CLP challenged this on the basis that the coroner had wrongly left a verdict of lack of care to the jury. Mr Justice Liu agreed and quashed the verdict in February last year. The original verdict of death by accident was restored and the coroner appealed against this, asking the Court of Appeal to reinstate the lack of care verdicts. Mr Justice Mortimer dismissed the coroner's appeal.