A jury note prompts the coroner to take action to avoid future deaths

Our trainee Olivia Smith attended the criminal trial of R -v- Elizabeth Avorga where Ms Avorga was charged with causing the death by careless driving of Mrs Janet Emmett.

The particular circumstance of the road traffic collision was that both Janet Emmett and Elizabeth Avorga each had an apartment in a block of flats leased from the local authority. The access to the flats from the main road was down a road that did not offer a protected pedestrian walkway so both pedestrians and vehicles used the same access road. Mrs Emmett, using crutches, was crossing the access road when Elizabeth Avorga driving a car struck her causing her death.  

Mrs Avorga was charged with causing the death of Janet Emmett by careless driving which was a charge to which she pleaded not guilty. The case was heard at the Central Criminal Court (“The Old Bailey”) where a jury returned a guilty verdict. 

The jury after they had delivered their verdict then handed a note to the court asking what action could be done to improve the access road to prevent future accidents.  

…whilst, it was a deeply challenging trial for all those affected, particularly the family of the late Mrs Emmett, I believe some comfort was provided in knowing that the jury were thoroughly engaged throughout and considered the issues carefully, which ultimately led them to the decision of finding Mrs Avorga guilty. The jury went beyond their duty to highlight to the court that they were concerned about the lack of infrastructure along the access road, they asked that proper action be taken and recommended a pedestrian walkway be built.

Olivia Smith, who observed the trial

The trial judge felt strongly that the agreed view of all twelve jurors should be passed on to the appropriate organisation and following conclusion of the criminal proceedings, duly invited His Majesty’s Coroner to review what had occurred.  

The coroner has power to make a report under paragraph 7, Schedule 5, of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and regulations 28 and 29 of the Coroners (Regulations) 2013. This is with a view to preventing future deaths.  

The coroner duly sent a report to the London Borough of Croydon asking that they review safe access – reserved for pedestrians – along the access road. The coroner was of the opinion there is a risk that future deaths will occur unless action is taken.  

The council is under a statutory duty to respond to the coroner’s report within 56 days.  

The coroner’s ability to issue a Regulation 28 Report is crucial in encouraging a review of what has happened and what can be done to avoid future deaths. It is often of some comfort to a bereaved family to know that action has been taken to try and prevent another family losing a loved one in similar circumstances.

Matthew Claxson, Partner, specialising in fatal incident and inquest matters

How can Moore Barlow help

Moore Barlow is a UK leading Personal injury firm. If you have been seriously injured or bereaved as a result of a road traffic collision then contact us to explore a legal claim on Freephone 0800 157 7611 or claim@moorebarlow.com. Our team acts for clients who have suffered serious injury or bereavement. We help those clients to access rehabilitation, receive interim payments and compensation to help them rebuild their lives.