Family wins High Court bid for coroner to request information

Parents of James Loughlin had asked Sligo/Leitrim coroner to request information from State body

A coroner must seek certain information for the inquest into the death of a 20-year-old man as a result of an alleged violent assault, the High Court has ruled.

Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said the parents of James Loughlin, who died in a house in Connolly Street, Sligo, on February 24th 2018, are entitled to an order requiring the coroner to obtain the information for use at the eventual inquest.

The inquest is on hold pending the trial of Richard McLoughlin (31) of City Gate Apartments in Connolly Street, who was charged with the murder of Mr Loughlin on February 26th 2018. In the meantime, the deceased's parents, Michael and Paula Loughlin had asked the Sligo/Leitrim coroner to request certain information from a State organisation which they say is necessary for the inquest.

The coroner refused to do so contending that the information they sought did not apply in relation to this case. The parents brought High Court judicial review proceedings claiming, among other things, the refusal was unlawful. They claimed the coroner misconstrued the law.

The coroner argued, among other things, the terms of the right to life (Article 2) provision of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) were not engaged on the facts of this case. These included because there was no engagement, in relation to the death, by agents of the State and only related to the alleged attacker.

Mr Justice Noonan ruled there was nothing in the Coroner’s Act 1962 which prevented the coroner from seeking evidence which is preparatory to the ultimate hearing of the inquest. He rejected the coroner’s argument that the ECHR provision applied in some way to restrict the operation of his duties under the Coroner’s Act.

This was “plainly a fundamental misconception”, he said. He also rejected the coroner’s argument that the Loughlins’ application was premature in circumstances where he (coroner) had made no final decision.