The Inquest

Information in this section is historic and a facsimile of the previous inquest website www.litvinenkoinquest.org. It relates to the inquest process which preceded the establishment of the inquiry and is provided here for completeness.

The inquest was suspended by Sir Robert Owen on 31 July 2014 to allow the inquiry to take place, in accordance with paragraph 3 of schedule 1 of the Coroner’s and Justice Act 2009.

Information relating to the Inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko can be found below.

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The Coroner:

  • Her Majesty’s Assistant Coroner, Sir Robert Owen
  • The Coroner’s role
  • Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner
  • Her Majesty’s Area or Assistant Coroners
  • Inquests by the Coroner’s Court
  • Further reading

Her Majesty’s Assistant Coroner, Sir Robert Owen

Sir Robert Michael Owen has been a Judge of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division, since 2001. From 2005–2008 he was the Presiding Judge of the Western Circuit.

He was called to the Bar (Inner Temple) in 1968 and was appointed Queen’s Counsel (QC) in 1988. In 1997 he was Chairman of the Bar of England and Wales.


The Coroner’s role

§ Explanation of the role of a Coroner’s Inquest in relation to the Death of Alexander Litvinenko
§ Объяснение роли судебного дознания по делу о смерти Александра Литвиненко
§ Spiegazione del ruolo dell’inchiesta condotta dal coroner in relazione alla morte di Alexander Litvinenko
§ Explicación sobre la función de la Investigación Judicial en relación a la Muerte de Alexander Litvinenko

Her Majesty’s Senior Coroner

A coroner is an independent judicial office holder acting to investigate the cause and circumstances of violent or unnatural deaths, or sudden deaths of an unknown cause. Most coroners are lawyers rather than doctors, although members of either profession can be appointed.

Coroners are appointed by and paid via the local authority for their district, but they are not local authority employees and are independent of both local and central government.

A Coroner’s work is ultimately overseen by the High Court of England and Wales and the Lord Chancellor.

Her Majesty’s Area or Assistant Coroners

Senior coroners appoint Area Coroners, and in larger districts, Assistant Coroners to assist them with their workload, which is substantial.

As a member of the senior judiciary, a High Court Judge, Sir Robert Owen, has been appointed as Assistant Coroner for Inner North London to lead the Litvinenko Inquest. The Inquest was generally adjourned for nearly 5 years while there was thought to be a prospect of criminal proceedings being brought. By the time of the pre-inquest review held by the Coroner for Inner North London, Dr Andrew Reid, in October 2011, it was clear that no criminal prosecutions would be brought because the two men suspected by police of murdering Mr Litvinenko are outside the UK.

Inquests by the Coroner’s Court

An inquest is a fact-finding exercise and not a method of apportioning guilt, as would be the case with a criminal trial. In an inquest, there are no parties, no indictment, no prosecution, no defence, and no trial; simply an attempt to establish the facts.

An Inquest is an inquisitorial process, a process of investigation unlike a traditional adversarial trial, there is no prosecution or defence. It is a fact-finding inquiry conducted by a coroner, with or without a jury, to establish reliable answers to four important but limited factual questions:

1. the identity of the deceased,
2. the place of this death,
3. the time of death, and
4. how the deceased came to their death.

In most cases the first three questions are not hard to answer. The fourth question is that to which most of the evidence and enquiry is usually directed, and where there may be significant dispute.

Those with a personal, professional, reputational, or financial interest in the death of the deceased can apply to be involved in proceedings. These Interested Persons, which can be natural or legal persons (corporations), are normally represented by counsel and/or a solicitor during the hearings. With permission of the coroner they may question witnesses and make submissions regarding their view of the facts and the proper progress of the inquest.

Further reading

The above is provided as a brief summary only; nothing in it should be considered as an authoritative statement of the law. That can be found in:

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Transcripts of Inquest Hearings:

Date
Hearing Type
Location
Evidence
31/07/14Suspension of Inquest and Opening of Public Inquiry (PDF)Court 76, RCJnone
29/11/13Further Submissions on Scope (PDF)Court 76, RCJnone
04/10/13Further Submissions on Anonymity (PDF)Court 73, RCJnone
12/07/13Hearing to consider decision of S of S regarding Public Inquiry (PDF)Court 73, RCJnone
11/06/13Further Submissions on Anonymity (PDF)Court 73, RCJnone
14/03/13Directions and Anonymity Applications (PDF)Court 73, RCJnone
27/02/13Ruling on Public Interest Immunity Application (PDF)Court 73, RCJnone
26/02/13Public Interest Immunity Application (PDF)Court 73, RCJnone
13/12/12Pre-Inquest Review (PDF)Camden Town Hallnone
02/11/12Pre-Inquest Review (PDF)Camden Town Hallnone
20/09/12Pre-Inquest Review (PDF)Court 73, RCJnone
13/09/11Pre-Inquest Review (PDF)The Inner London
(St Pancras) Coroners Court
none

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Inquest Documents:

  • Public Inquiry
  • Pre-Inquest Review Issues
  • Anonymity
  • Public Interest Immunity
  • Interested Person Status
  • Inquest Timetable

Sir Robert Owen has no objection to the evidence posted on the Inquest’s website being reproduced. If an issue arises in relation to copyright in any such material, it should be a matter for consideration by the legal adviser to the media organisation wishing to use the material.

When used, material should be credited to the Inquest’s website so it is clear that it has been shown in open court as part of the Inquest’s proceedings.
The credit is to read: “Alexander Litvinenko Inquest – www.litvinenkoinquiry.org

Issue
Date
Document
Public Inquiry
17/07/13Letter from the Home Secretary Declining to Order a Public Inquiry (PDF)
04/06/13Letter from the Coroner to the Lord Chancellor Requesting a Public Inquiry (PDF)
31/05/13Submissions on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department (PDF)
23/05/13Letter from the Secretary of State on Potential Public Inquiry, PII and State Responsibility (PDF)
22/05/13Submissions on behalf of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko (PDF)
22/05/13Submissions on behalf of Boris Berezovsky (PDF)
22/05/13Submissions on behalf of the ICRF (PDF)
22/05/13Submissions on behalf of the Media (PDF)
22/05/13Submissions on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service (PDF)
Pre-Inquest Review Issues
18/12/13Ruling on Scope of the Inquest (PDF)
27/11/13Counsel to the Inquest Submissions on Scope (PDF)
26/11/13Metropolitan Police Service Letter on Scope (PDF)
25/11/13Further Submissions by Marina Litvinenko on Scope (PDF)
25/11/13Letter on behalf of the Secretary of State on Scope (PDF)
25/11/13Further Submissions on behalf of Marina Litvinenko on Scope (PDF)
25/11/13Letter on behalf of the Secretary of State on Scope (PDF)
25/11/13Statement of the Solicitor to the Inquest on Scope (PDF)
18/11/13ICRF Note on Scope (PDF)
18/11/13Letter on behalf of Marina Litvinenko on Scope (PDF)
15/11/13Letter on behalf of the Secretary of State on Scope (PDF)
14/11/13Metropolitan Police Service Letter on Scope (PDF)
17/01/13Ruling on Scope (PDF)

Provisional List of Issues (PDF)
12/12/12 Additional Note on behalf of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko for Hearing 13 Dec 12 (PDF)
12/12/12Note on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department on the empanelment of a jury and the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (PDF)
11/12/12Submissions on behalf of Counsel to the Inquest (PDF)
06/12/12 Submissions on behalf of Marina Litvinenko (PDF)
05/12/12Submissions on behalf of Andrey Lugovoy (PDF)
05/12/12Submissions on behalf of Boris Berezovsky (PDF)
05/12/12Submissions on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service (PDF)
04/12/12Skeleton Argument on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department (PDF)
02/11/12General Directions (PDF)
31/10/12Submissions on behalf of Marina Litvinenko (PDF)
10/10/11Submission on behalf of Marina Litvinenko (PDF)
Anonymity
26/11/13Ruling on Anonymity Applications-C2, C3, D3, D6, D7 (PDF)
26/11/13Further Ruling on Anonymity Applications-D1, D2, C1 (PDF)
04/10/13Submissions by Counsel to the Inquest (PDF)
11/07/13Ruling on Anonymity Applications (PDF)
07/06/13Submissions on behalf of the Media (PDF)
06/06/13Submissions by Counsel to the Inquest (PDF)
19/03/13Directions on Anonymity Applications (PDF)
13/03/13Submissions by Counsel to the Inquest (PDF)
11/03/13Submissions on behalf of the Media (PDF)
08/03/13 Submissions on behalf of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko (PDF)
08/03/13Submissions on behalf of the AWE (PDF)
05/03/13Order Prohibiting the Publication of Names or Identifying Information (PDF)
27/02/13Application by the Metropolitan Police Service for Anonymity and Screening (PDF)
29/01/13Directions on PII & Anonymity Applications (PDF)
Public Interest Immunity (PII)
17/05/13Ruling on PII Application (PDF)
27/02/13Ruling on PII Certificate and Process (PDF)
26/02/13Submission on behalf of the Media (PDF)
26/02/13Submissions on behalf of Andrei Lugovoy (PDF)
22/02/13Submissions on behalf of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko (PDF)
22/02/13Submissions on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department (PDF)
20/02/13Letter from the the Metropolitan Police Service on PII (PDF)
19/02/13 Submissions by Counsel to the Inquest (PDF)
07/02/13PII Certificate (PDF)
29/01/13Directions on PII & Anonymity Applications (PDF)
December 2012Counsel to Inquest Note on HMG material (PDF)
Interested Person (IP) Status
25/03/13Ruling on Application to Designate Russian Federation as IP and on Dmitry Kovtun’s IP status (PDF)
31/01/13 Ruling on ICRF Application for IP Status (PDF)
24/01/13Provisional Ruling on the Application to Designate Russian Federation as IP (PDF)
16/01/13Counsel to Inquest Note on Rule 20 Designation of the Russian Federation (PDF)
11/01/13Second Submission on behalf of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko (PDF)
21/12/12First Submission on behalf of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko (PDF)
21/12/12Submissions on behalf of the Metropolitan Police Service (PDF)
20/12/12Submissions on behalf of Andrei Lugovoy (PDF)
17/12/12 Application on behalf of the ICRF for IP Status (PDF)
Inquest Timetable
13/03/13Counsel to the Inquest Note on Timing (PDF)
11/03/13Submissions on behalf of Marina and Anatoly Litvinenko (PDF)
11/03/13Submissions on behalf of Boris Berezovsky (PDF)
11/03/13 Submissions on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Home Department (PDF)
11/03/13Submissions on behalf of the Metropolitian Police Service (PDF)
11/03/13Submissions on behalf of the ICRF (PDF)
11/03/13Submissions on behalf of Andrei Lugovoy (PDF)
11/03/13Submissions on behalf of AWE (PDF)

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Inquest Expenditure:

The table below sets out the expenditure for the Inquest up to and including 30 September 2014. The Inquest was resumed on Thursday 13 October 2011 and expenditure from that date is included. Only expenditure authorised through, or on behalf of, the Inquest Secretariat is included in these figures. Although the Inquest provides funding for the Solicitors and Counsel to the Inquest it does not does not fund representation for the Interested Parties.

Costs incurred to 30 September 2014  
General staffing £253,940.37
Legal services £2,129,202.68
Running costs inc. transcription £129,096.20
IT £18,894.37
Accommodation £51,115.69
Total £2,582,249.31

 

Please note that these figures only include amounts which have been processed and assigned to the Inquest account. Further information about the cost of the Inquest will be posted here at regular intervals. Please note that all figures exclude VAT.

Previous expenditure updates:

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FAQ:

  1. What is the purpose of an inquest?
  2. Why has it taken so long for the Inquest to be dealt with?
  3. Why has Sir Robert Owen been appointed as Coroner?
  4. Will Sir Robert Owen continue to sit in the High Court?
  5. When did the Inquest start?
  6. Where are the hearings being held?
  7. Why were Solicitors and Counsel to the Inquest appointed?
  8. Do the media have access?
  9. Do the public have access?
  10. Are transcripts of proceedings and evidence made public?
  11. Who can be called to give evidence in an inquest?
  12. Can witnesses be compelled to attend or provide evidence for an inquest?
  13. What are the possible outcomes in an inquest?
  14. Who may take part in and can be represented at an inquest?
  15. Will there be a jury?

1. What is the purpose of an inquest?

Coroners are independent judicial officers who work within a legal framework established by Act of Parliament. A Coroner’s inquest is a process for investigating the factual circumstances of a death. It is a fact-finding inquiry to establish the answers to:

  • Who the deceased was
  • When and where the death occurred
  • How the deceased came by his or her death
  • Particulars required by the Registration Acts to be registered concerning the death

The proceedings and evidence are aimed solely at ascertaining the answers to these questions. Expressions of opinion on any other matter – for example, determining criminal or civil liability – are not allowed. However, the Coroner does have the power to investigate not just the main cause of death, but also “any acts or omissions which directly led to the cause of death”. More information on the role of a Coroner can be found under the tab in the masthead.

2. Why has it taken so long for the Inquest to be dealt with?

The Coroner’s Act 1988 requires a Coroner to hold an inquest when someone dies a violent or unnatural death. An inquest is a search for the truth relating to that death. Coroners frequently find facts and learn lessons from unnatural deaths after the passage of time.

The Inquest into the death of Alexander Litvinenko was generally adjourned for nearly 5 years while there was thought to be a prospect of criminal proceedings being brought. By the time of the pre-inquest review held by the Coroner for Inner North London, Dr Andrew Reid, in October 2011, it was clear that no criminal prosecutions would be brought because the two men suspected by police of murdering Mr Litvinenko are outside the UK. Work has been undertaken since then on preparing the Inquest for hearings.

3. Why has Sir Robert Owen been appointed as Coroner?

Because of the exceptional circumstances of the death of Alexander Litvinenko it was thought sensible to have a senior judge to conduct the Inquest. Sir Robert Owen is a judge of the High Court, with wide ranging experience across the civil and criminal jurisdictions. He was nominated for this role by the Lord Chief Justice.

4. Will Sir Robert Owen continue to sit in the High Court?

Sir Robert Owen will be absent from the High Court for the duration of the proceedings.

5. When did the Inquest start?

The Inquest formally resumed on Thursday 13 October 2011.

6. Where are the hearings being held?

Hearings are being held at the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ).

7. Why were Solicitors and Counsel to the Inquest appointed?

The Coroner for Inner North London, Dr Andrew Reid, decided that it was necessary due to the complexity of the issues involved to appoint Solicitors and Counsel to the Inquest.

The role of Solicitor to the Inquest is varied and includes assisting the Assistant Coroner to conduct the investigation, obtaining evidence, instructing Counsel to the Inquest, dealing with witnesses, interested persons and their legal representatives.

The role of Counsel to the Inquest is varied and includes presenting evidence, questioning witnesses and making legal submissions.

8. Do the media have access?

Yes. However, space in any courtroom venue for the Inquest is likely to be limited and priority is given to Interested Persons and their legal representatives.

It is planned to provide greater press and public access to proceedings through the provision of a media facility with audio and visual links to the court room.

The Inquest hearing will be held in a courtroom, which will be subject to the same restrictions as would apply to normal court proceedings. When the court is sitting the use of mobile telephones, other communications or recording equipment, cameras and personal stereos is strictly prohibited.

9. Do the public have access?

Yes. However, space in any courtroom venue for the Inquest is necessarily limited and priority is given to Interested Persons and their legal representatives. It is intended that public access to the proceedings will be available through the provision of a court annex with audio and visual links to the court room.

10. Are transcripts of proceedings and evidence made public?

Sir Robert Owen wishes to publish on this website transcripts of proceedings that take place in open court. Where possible, Sir Robert Owen will also publish evidence seen and heard in open court during the course of the Inquest.

11. Who can be called to give evidence in an inquest?

Sir Robert Owen is solely responsible for deciding which witnesses will be heard and the legitimate scope of questions, although of course he intends to canvas views on this with the Interested Persons in advance. Witnesses who may be called to give evidence will be those who can provide material and relevant evidence on the issues identified.

12. Can witnesses be compelled to attend or provide evidence for an inquest?

The Coroner can compel witnesses to give evidence if they are in the jurisdiction and are properly summonsed. If witnesses are outside the jurisdiction the Coroner can ask the authorities concerned to exercise their powers, which may vary according to the relevant jurisdiction.

13. What are the possible outcomes in an inquest?

Possible verdicts include: natural causes, accident, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing, industrial disease, and open verdicts (where there is insufficient evidence for any other verdict). There may also be a narrative verdict which sets out in narrative form how the person died.

The Coroner may also report the death to any appropriate person or authority, if action is needed to prevent more deaths in similar circumstances.

14. Who may take part in and can be represented at an inquest?

Anyone deemed by the Coroner to have what is called “a proper interest” may ask relevant questions of a witness at an inquest. They can be:

  • a parent, child, spouse, civil partner, partner and any personal representative of the deceased;
  • any beneficiary under a policy of insurance issued on the life of the deceased;
  • the insurer who issued such a policy of insurance;
  • any person whose act or omission or that of his agent or servant may in the opinion of the coroner have caused, or contributed to, the death of the deceased;
  • any person appointed by a trade union to which the deceased at the time of his death belonged, if the death of the deceased may have been caused by an injury received in the course of his employment or by an industrial disease;
  • an inspector appointed by, or a representative of, an enforcing authority, or any person appointed by a government department to attend the inquest;
  • the chief officer of police;
  • any other person who, in the opinion of the coroner, is a properly interested person.

15. Will there be a jury?

After hearing submissions from Interested Persons, the Coroner decided that he should conduct the Inquest into the death of Mr Litvinenko without a jury.

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