Clashing Rights…

The father of a 12-year-old boy who hanged himself in his York bedroom says he is planning to challenge a coroner’s handling of the inquest.

Mike Wilson said he was “very disappointed” by York Coroner Donald Coverdale’s decision not to read out a note left by Liam Cole before he died.

Airing private matters in public is never easy, even more so when talking about a child.

He said he was intending to lodge an appeal but was also planning to ask for a copy of the note to be given to him, claiming that as Liam’s biological father, he had the right to such materials.

A very sad tale, because rather than make things easier, the HRA has now given estranged families new weapons to use against one another.

Mr Coverdale told the inquest Liam, a pupil at York High School, had left a note, the contents of which were consistent with someone intending to take his life, and he recorded a verdict of suicide.

He said he was aware that a pressure group calling itself Justice For Liam – which is led by Mr Wilson – had been pressing for the note to be read out in full, but he could not be influenced by such groups.

He said did not believe divulging a personal note addressed to his mother would represent justice for Liam, or that the youngster would have wanted this to happen in a public arena, and for it to possibly be broadcast aloud.

He also said he was not prepared to read out the note because it was a personal message to Liam’s mother and would breach her and other’s right to privacy under article 8 of the Human Rights Act.

Unfortunately, there are other articles…

Mr Wilson said he would seek to argue that article 10 of the Act, protecting freedom of speech, was breached by the decision.

I can’t help but feel that, whoever wins, it’s not going to help anyone…

Except the lawyers. Of course.

14 comments for “Clashing Rights…

  1. LordT
    June 20, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    I can understand him wanting to know what was in the note. I suspect he is looking for some way to make himself feel better.

    You are right though. There will be no winners but the lawyers. 🙁

    • June 21, 2011 at 5:16 am

      Ain’t it always the way..? 😡

  2. john in cheshire
    June 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    Is the implication that the mother would not let the father see the note? If so, that doesn’t sound like a very nice thing to do.

    • June 21, 2011 at 5:17 am

      I can see no reason why he’d do this unless that was indeed the case.

  3. June 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    I don’t see it succeeding under section 10 as it’s not a free speech issue. However, denying the father sight of the letter is pretty mean spirited.

    • June 21, 2011 at 5:18 am

      I don’t see it succeeding either, but that won’t stop some lawyer taking his money. I’m not sure that using your child’s last words as a weapon against your estranged partner isn’t worse, though…

  4. patrick Harris
    June 20, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Why not hand the note over to the father? the young man is dead and cannot, therefor, be deprived of his right to privacy. The mother seems to be in the loop, all the father is asking is that he be treated equally.

    • June 21, 2011 at 5:18 am


    • Lord T
      June 21, 2011 at 10:49 am

      If only we could be sure. It may contain something that he will use to persecute her. In fact I would guess it must contain something otherwise the judge would have read it or a summary out in court.

  5. Woman on a Raft
    June 21, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I gather the position is this: Mr Wilson says the police investigating the death told him that the note makes serious allegations of bullying against a named individual. (Note: that’s what he says. The police have not commented and may not agree they said any such thing).

    However, the police did not show him the note and the coroner decided not to read it out. It was not necessary for the purposes of the inquest. Presumably the police and coroner could see that all that has happened is that someone wrote Liam’s mother a letter. That person being Mr Wilson’s son, and now dead, doesn’t make any difference to the fact that the letter was addressed to the mother. There is no freedom of speech issue at all because Liam exercised his. There is a privacy issue, but it is the privacy of the mother. Had Liam addressed the note to the world generally, that might be different, but that he wanted it read generally seems to be a supposition by the campaigners.

    The note, so far I can tell, still exists and is still in the hands of the coroner and (possibly) the police. It would be for them to decide if there is to be a criminal investigation as there have been cases prosecuted on this basis. If the CPS then decided to prosecute the note might be disclosed in court. If so, Mr Wilson could expect to be interviewed as to what he saw or heard and might be called as a witness.

    One reason for not risking a compo claim and handing the note over to Mr Wilson is that this would damage any future criminal proceedings. Mr Wilson would be argued to be an unreliable witness because his testimony is already compromised, even worse than can normally be expected in family breakdown.

    There might be a freedom on information issue. Mr Wilson could try launching an FOI with a view to bringing a private prosecution if the CPS refuses to act. There would probably be a fight on whether or not the the authorities can refuse to hand the note over. (I don’t know which way this would go, but I’m guessing they would refuse and win the point.) Assuming he ever got the note and used it to launch a private prosecution, the Crown reserves the right to take over and it usually discontinues them.

    Apparently a lawyer has warned him that appeals cost £10k as a starting figure.

    It is difficult for people in situations of family breakdown to appreciate that the allegations of a child still have to be substantiated and that sadly, even in the most solid of families, children sometimes kill themselves. Them doing so does not automatically create criminal liability for others.

    Realistically, I don’t think there is any way to close an open wound like this. Anyone thinking that showing the note to Mr Wilson would bring closure is mistaken – that is just not how these cases go. If the police don’t investigate there will always be suggestion that something was covered-up, and if they do investigate and find no basis for prosecution, Mr Wilson is unlikely to ever accept that. In addition, because the investigation alone creates a file record, this stigmatizes anybody investigated, no matter how baseless the claims are later shown to be.

    • June 22, 2011 at 5:42 am

      “Realistically, I don’t think there is any way to close an open wound like this.”

      Me neither. The state offering more ‘rights’ to fight over seems to be even crueller than if they didn’t exist…

    • Mike wilson
      July 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      Hita, am liams dad and the so called intensive investigation consists of intervue from Nicky, stepdad and the school, not really an intensive investigation really 🙁

  6. Mike wilson
    June 26, 2011 at 1:10 am

    Ask me any question I’ll answer to the best I can, I am Liams dad, there is plenty of evidence to say liam had a life off hell!! Now this intensive investigation that the police did included a 5min chat then talking to Liams mum n stepdad that’s it!! Dose that sound like an intensive investigation to u??? Also they left out social services involvement, how liam had called the police on Stuart MONTGOMARy and he was nicked so now a qu ya need to ask ya selfs, was liam happy at the time he called the police??? No was he hell but at the inquest they said that had nothing to do with the state of mind liam was in, “it must have been bad for a child to call the police”
    If u guys can help in any way plz let me know n I will answer any qu I can like I said…..
    Many thanks guys, mike

    • Mike wilson
      June 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm

      5min chat with the school that is, I got ahead of my self when typing…..
      There was no intervue from me ect ect….
      I can see an end to this sad situation n that’s when everyone dose there job prop ie police and coroner as I say any qu just ask away!!

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