Written evidence from The United Families and Friends Campaign (UFFC) – a coalition of family campaigns
Please note our collective personal family experiences of 40 plus families who have been subjected to the Coroners Court Inquest system, that span many years, form the basis of these submissions.
Disclosure in this instance, relates to any and ALL documentation gathered during the investigation process and also the clothes and property of the deceased loved one. These items should be disclosed to families in good time before the Inquest. In some cases, families have had Coroners suggesting that the disclosure of evidence to the family be delayed until the morning of the Inquest.
This is completely unacceptable, and in some cases can be considered a direct affront and deliberate attempt to sabotage a grieving families’ inclusion at the Inquest and the subsequent conclusion of the Jury. All families have a right to know how their loved one died.
This is an assault on the families right to have proper inclusion in the rites of passage that come with any death. Research has been written detailing the increased risk of PTSD, if a family does not have access to adequately view the body in peace following a traumatic bereavement.
The sickening procedures that appear always to happen behind closed doors with no inclusion of the families at any point has led to, in many of our families’ cases, organs never being repatriated with the body. Organs being taken without consent have often been used for medical research, bodily samples have been returned to families in forensic bags to their doorsteps and in one case, the wrong body was given back for burial.
The torturous months and sometimes years of waiting to have your loved ones’ body returned for burial leading to the extensive decomposition of your loved one’s body coupled with the outrageous and inhumane treatment that families are subjected to above has had devastating and profound traumatic effects on all the families concerned. Following the Alder Hay scandal, that these processes are still being violated behind closed doors is diabolical and our families demand an end to the barbaric and degrading treatment of bodies and families listed above. Our families demand full disclosure of location of Organs and bodies and would like to see a system put in place that logs all movement/testing/removal of Organs, samples and bodies so that the state is held accountable for any issues that may arise during these procedures.
At no point are families told where the samples are and no families have been offered the ability to conduct independent toxicological analysis, often times the samples are tested to destruction. This is unacceptable and our families demand full inclusion and disclosure of this process.
Our families also have grave concerns relating to the inclusion of Police representatives at the autopsy of their loved ones when clearly the police officers being represented have been involved in the killing or death of their loved one. Police officers should be treated as suspects not witnesses until any proceedings have been concluded and therefore should not be any where near the deceased body of a person that they have been involved with ending of life.
This is especially pertinent when considering the vast majority of families are not told that they can be represented at the autopsy. Our families find this insulting and take this as a direct affront to inclusion and basic respect for the due process, transparency and equal rights of families in the search for the truth about how their loved one really died.
We would demand that families are treated respectfully at all times and this would include being given involvement in the entire process, from investigation to the Inquest, from autopsy proceedings to Pre-Inquest reviews. This means that any issues that families raise or indeed evidence, should never be dismissed as unimportant and furthermore that all evidence gathered be presented before a jury.
The torturous process of being dragged through many, many years of traumatic processes with no involvement and having to relive and be subjected to some of the most disturbing, traumatic and violently graphic circumstances only to realise that those responsible for your loved one’s death will ultimately, never be held to account by due process of the law is an abomination and a national disgrace.
It is unacceptable that families are often invasively questioned and treated as though they are the ones on trial, it is well documented that the Coroners Court Inquest proceeding tends to be adversarial. This approach leads families to suffer great and unnecessary distress and echoing the findings of Dame Elish Angiolini, our families demand an end to adversarial proceedings.
In particular our families demand an end to adversarial lines of questioning during an inquest to bereaved and traumatised families, the sole intention of which are to demonise innocent families to detract attention away from state violence and murder.
Our families demand an end to means tested legal aid funding for families.
We also raise concern over the apparent power of only one doctor certifying deaths of Covid-19 as this can be interpreted as being prejudicial.