Achieving Racial Justice at Inquests: A Practitioner’s Guide

Achieving Racial Justice at Inquests: A Practitioner’s Guide (2024) provides lawyers, coroners and others involved in post death investigations with the tools to recognise, raise, and investigate issues of race and racism in deaths in state custody cases.

“This important guide equips practitioners and coroners to recognise, raise and investigate issues of race or racism when they arise, sensitively and without reticence. It is an invaluable resource, not only for promoting racial justice, but for improving fact finding, increasing racial awareness, and providing better representation to families.”
His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft KC
Recorder of London (Chief Coroner of England and Wales 2016-2020)

Developed in association with INQUEST, and in consultation with an advisory group of experienced lawyers, academics, and people directly impacted by the inquest process, the guide contains practical advice on how to navigate sensitive issues of race and racism effectively.

“The fundamental absence of racism in the scope of the inquest has left many of us with questions that will never be answered and denied us of the opportunity to truly know how and why our loved ones died. As such, the inquest process delayed our grieving process and deprived us of the possibility to gain closure.

… we hope this guide will serve as both a vital educational tool for experienced practitioners to sharpen their craft, and a source of inspiration for the new generation of lawyers and coroners to confidently raise and evidence racism. Not only would this make a tangible difference to bereaved families’ experiences at inquests, but it could also spark wider legal and policy action to address and overcome issues of race and racism.”
Louise Rowland, Aji Lewis, and Marcia Rigg, on behalf of bereaved families

An overview of the guide
Part 1 provides an overview of how race and racism shapes the experiences of Black and racialised people within key state institutions: the criminal justice system, immigration system, and mental health system.
Part 2 provides guidance for practitioners on approaching cases concerning the death of a Black or racialised person in state custody. It includes a roadmap for engaging with bereaved families and reminds practitioners of challenges they may face in raising issues of race and racism and the need to develop creative strategies to overcome them.
Part 3 provides guidance on raising issues of race and racism at inquests and other post death investigations. It sets out the legal reasons why coroners should, and sometimes must, investigate issues of race or racism, and arguments that can be run to bring these issues in scope.
Part 4 provides guidance on identifying and evidencing issues of race and racism at inquests and other post death investigations. It includes a list of questions practitioners should ask to identify such issues in a case, and provides guidance on the use of statistical evidence, reports, and experts witnesses to evidence racism.
Part 5 provides specific advice for coroners, including guidance on developing racial awareness, reasons for investigating racism, and how to conduct these investigations effectively and sensitively.

“Too often, inquests overlook the critical factor of race, particularly when Black and racialised individuals are involved. By ignoring or sidestepping this issue, they neglect to confront the systemic racism embedded in policies and practices that endanger lives.

This guide will ensure race is no longer the elephant in the room in these investigations. Publicly acknowledging and investigating issues of racism are necessary first steps towards achieving justice and preventing further harm.”
Professor Leslie Thomas KC, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers and Chair of the guide’s Advisory Group

As part of our monitoring for this project, we are keen to hear about how and when the guide is being used. If you are a practitioner who has used this guide or come across it, please contact Emma Snell.