A Case Review: Part 2 (Second Issue)

By Mr David Bong, Lecturer, Faculty of Law

In the case of R (on the application of Maguire) v Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for Blackpool
and Fylde (2019), the English Divisional Court (Administrative Court) declared that the
Coroner’s decision was correct when he decided not to direct the jury to consider whether
neglect should form part of their conclusion on Jacqueline Maguire’s death.

WHY?

According to R v Her Majesty’s Coroner for North Humberside and Scunthorpe, ex parte
Jamieson (1995), in order to allow the jury to consider the question of neglect, there has to
be evidence of a gross failure by the responsible party and that the neglectful conduct of the
party was clearly and directly the cause of death.

In ex parte Jamieson, ‘neglect’ is defined as a gross failure to provide or procure among others,
basic medical attention for someone in a dependent position who cannot be providing it for
himself. This is because of his youth or age or illness or incarceration. Generally, there must
be a ‘sufficient level of fault’ to justify a finding of neglect. In a medical case, the action or lack
of it on an objective basis must be more than a failure to provide medical attention or care. It
must be a gross failure to do so. It involves, for example, the consequences of failing to make
simple, basic checks on the person when it is required. Hence, neglect in this context has a
narrower meaning than a failure of the duty of care in the law of negligence. Neglect is thus,
not the same as negligence or gross negligence.

The legal principle of neglect as defined by ex parte Jamieson is found in the Chief Coroner’s
Guidance on Conclusion (also known as Guidance No.17). The Coroner had approached the
evidence in the inquest and directed himself to the appropriate test. It was done in
accordance with the Chief Coroner’s Guidance and the appropriate test was applied to decide
the issue of neglect. Having done so, he had declined to leave the issue to the jury because
he had concluded that there had been no individual failing by any medical or healthcare
personnel that could safely be said to be of gross neglect.

In conclusion, the judges in the Muriel Maguire’s judicial review case agreed with the decision
and assessment of evidence done by the Coroner.

Reference: R (on the application of Maguire) v HM Senior Coroner for Blackpool and Fylde
[2019] EWHC 1232 (Admin).

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