Stephen Port inquest coroner rules out quizzing jurors about homophobia
- Credit: MPS
Jurors at the inquest into the deaths of four gay men murdered by serial killer Stephen Port will not be quizzed on their views of homosexuality, a coroner ruled.
The victims' families and partner of one of the men killed in Barking wanted potential jurors to be asked whether they held beliefs against gay sex or homosexuality.
However, Judge Sarah Munro, in a written ruling dated December 3, said: "I have concluded it would be improper, unnecessary and potentially unlawful to ask potential jurors about their religious or moral beliefs concerning homosexuality or gay sex."
Judge Munro explains in the ruling that the coronial process has "built-in safeguards" with regards to jurors and the questions to be asked.
The ruling goes on to say the families' proposed question is "unlikely" to bring any bias to the surface.
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Port, now 45, was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison at the Old Bailey in November 2016 for the murders of Gabriel Kovari, Daniel Whitworth, Anthony Walgate and Jack Taylor.
All four were drugged with GHB and raped by Port before being dumped near his home in Cooke Street.
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The original inquests into the deaths of Mr Kovari, 22, from Slovakia, and Mr Whitworth, 21, from Gravesend, were quashed following Port’s murder conviction.
The deaths of Mr Walgate, 23, from Hull, and Mr Taylor, 25, from Dagenham, were originally treated as non-suspicious.
Judge Munro is to preside over the inquest into all four deaths which is set to last eight weeks and include a jury. It will be held at Barking Town Hall and is due to start on January 8.
One focus is expected to be on possible police failings around why Port was not stopped sooner.
The judge's ruling argues that under section 8(5) of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 she has the power to ask questions of a potential juror to establish whether they are qualified to serve and to refuse to swear a potential juror.
The families argued that their question should be asked in order to ensure jurors are impartial.
But among the observations, the ruling notes a jury should be selected at random and that holding a religious belief does not "of itself" give rise to "apparent bias".