The recent coronial inquest into the death of Joshua ‘Joshie’ Ryan Statis considered, among other matters, the extent to which family members could make submissions at an inquest. The Coroner, relying on the findings following the inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei, upheld that families are entitled to make submissions at an inquest.
Joshie was a 12 year old boy who died unexpectedly at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital on 16 November 2015 after developing acute bleeding from his stenotomy wound into a VAC canister.
Throughout the course of the inquest, Joshie’s mother and grandmother gave evidence about the standard of care received.
Members of Joshie’s family and friends also attended each day of the five-day hearing.
In response to the family’s submissions, Counsel Assisting submitted that section 36 of the Coroners Act 2003 (‘the Act’) should be read as maintaining the common law position in Annetts v McCann  HCA 57. This case provided that a family’s legal entitlement is confined to making submissions in respect of matters which may be the subject of adverse findings against them personally or against the deceased. As there was no evidence on which an adverse finding could be made against Joshie himself or Mrs Statis personally, it was submitted that the Coroner should disregard the family’s submissions.
In response, Counsel representing the family submitted that Annetts did not limit the ability of a family member to make submissions at an inquest in Queensland. Rather, it was submitted that the Queensland position had been deliberately broadened, or at least distinguished, from the position in Western Australia so as to allow a family member to make submissions without the limitation imposed by the Annetts decision. It was submitted that the ability of a family to make submissions at an inquest was consistent with Parliament’s intention and the State Coroner’s Guidelines.
Coroner’s findings with respect to family’s submissions
In holding that Joshie’s family was entitled to make submissions in relation to matters in the inquest, the Coroner adopted the reasoning in the findings of the State Coroner in the inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei.1 Mr Khazaei was an Iranian asylum seeker who died in a Brisbane hospital in September 2014 after he contracted a leg infection in Manus Island detention centre. The State Coroner concluded that the limitation of the right to make submissions that was held to exist in Annetts did not apply to an inquest under the Act, a conclusion supported by consideration of the legislative history of s36 and the State Coroner’s Guidelines. The State Coroner held that the family had sufficient interest to make submissions with respect to the factual findings the Coroner is required to make, as well as recommendations under s46.