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Supreme Court judgment handed down: burden of proof for unlawful killing changed

Ground-breaking decision of the Supreme Court (by a majority of 3:2) to reduce the standard of proof for an inquest coroner or jury to reach a conclusion of unlawful killing to the civil standard of the balance of probabilities, rather than the criminal standard.

R (on the application of Maughan) (Appellant) v Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner for Oxfordshire (Respondent) [2020] UKSC 46.

The case concerned the judicial review of the approach adopted so far as suicide is concerned, but the majority of the Supreme Court held that the approach should be consistently applied to all short-form conclusions, including unlawful killing.

This obviously has enormous implications for health and safety inquests, both in terms of decisions as to scope and also as to the conclusions that are to be left to the jury on the basis of the evidence heard at the inquest.

We will send round a case summary of the decision and its implications on the field of health and safety law in due course.

To view the judgment, please see here.

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