Widow gets stay on inquest order


A woman who has failed to attend an inquest into the death of her husband will ask the Supreme Court today to overturn a High Court order compelling her to attend a hearing tomorrow.

The Supreme Court yesterday granted Ms Lynda Lee a stay on the High Court order, which was made on Monday, and will hear her application for a further stay on the order at 11 a.m. today.

The Chief Justice, Mr Justice Keane, told Ms Lee (representing herself) she should notify the Chief State Solicitor's office that her application will be heard. Ms Lee, a mother of three, is the widow of Mr Gerard Lee (31), who was shot dead at a birthday party for him in Coolock on March 9th, 1996. An inquest into his death was to have opened last October but could not because Ms Lee failed to attend.

On Monday, after being told the inquest had been adjourned five times due to Ms Lee's absence, the High Court granted a mandatory order to the Attorney General, requiring Ms Lee to attend the inquest hearing tomorrow and give evidence.

Counsel for the Attorney General said Ms Lee was a vital witness without whose evidence the inquest could not be concluded.

Granting the order, Mr Justice Kelly warned Ms Lee that failure to turn up would be a contempt of court and risk imprisonment. He noted Ms Lee had told him that responding to the summons was an "embarrassment". That view was not a legal reason for failing to comply with the summons, the judge said.

The £5 penalty in the Coroners Act, 1962, for failure to comply with summonses to attend inquests was "derisory", he added.

In her application Ms Lee argues that Mr Justice Kelly erred in law, in that his order breaches the Coroners Act, as Section 37 of that Act provided for the £5 fine for failure to comply with summonses to attend inquests. She claims the courts cannot go beyond that.