20th July 1998 Royal Courts of Justice

The family of Wayne Douglas will be appealing against the judgement of Mr Justice Laws who ruled against having a fresh inquest into the death of Mr Douglas at a Judicial Review in July 1997 despite accepting that the Coroner made an error of law when directing the jury at the inquest into the death.

Lawyers for the family of Wayne Douglas who died in police custody in December 1995 in Brixton Police Station had sought to quash the verdict of accidental death returned after a three-week inquest in December 1996. The jury found Wayne Douglas had died of “left ventricular failure due to stress and exhaustion and positional asphyxia .... following a chase and a series of restraints, in prone position, face down, as used in current police methods”. The family’s lawyers argued that the Coroner made errors in his summing up to the jury on what they needed to find before they could consider an unlawful killing verdict reflecting gross negligence/manslaughter.

Mr Justice Laws accepted the error was made but without the benefit of sitting through the evidence heard at the three-week inquest decided the Coroner would have been wrong to leave such a verdict to the jury anyway. If the Court of Appeal finds in the Douglas family's favour there will have to be a new inquest at a later date.