Stephen Port: Coroner will not face investigation in fresh inquest
PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 July 2019
The coroner who examined the deaths of two of Stephen Port’s victims will not be investigated, a judge has ruled.
Her honour, Judge Sarah Munro, rejected arguments from lawyers acting for the families of the four young gay men murdered by the Barking serial killer that Nadia Persaud, senior coroner for east London, should appear at a fresh inquest.
Judge Munro, acting as assistant coroner for that inquest, wrote: "I am not permitted to explore the conduct of another coroner".
Ms Persaud reached an open verdict into the deaths of Gabriel Kovari, 22, and Daniel Whitworth, 21. Port's final victims were Anthony Walgate, 23, and Jack Taylor, 25, from Dagenham.
Her conclusion was quashed at the High Court after the 44-year-old chef was jailed for life for murder in 2016.
Paul Clark and Dr Anton van Dellen, acting for the families and Daniel's former partner, Ricky Waumsley, urged Judge Munro to examine "shortcomings" in Ms Persaud's investigation at a preliminary July 5 Old Bailey hearing to agree the inquest's scope.
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These included concerns over whether Ms Persaud sufficiently investigated whether the bodies had been moved; the authenticity of a suicide note, later revealed as fake; and Daniel's movements before his death.
Andrew O'Connor QC, counsel to the inquests, and Peter Skelton QC, for the Met, had argued that Judge Munro could not investigate Ms Persaud.
In her written ruling published after the hearing, Judge Munro disagreed with Mr Clark's argument that since Ms Persaud's open conclusions were overruled, her decisions could no longer be respected.
Judge Munro described his argument as "flawed" saying it would be wrong for her to challenge a judicial officer of the same rank.
Mr Clarke's second argument that the quality of Ms Persaud's investigation into the deaths could be examined separately from her role as a judge was also dismissed.
A third argument Judge Munro should investigate the coroner's office's conduct in relation to the preservation of life under Article 2 of the Europena Convention on Human Rights was dismissed as beyond her powers.
"[T]he scope of these inquests will have at its heart any failings or missed opportunities by police (and possibly others) to investigate matters which might have prevented one or more of the later deaths", Judge Munro stated.
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