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The consultation period ends on 16 February. We will then report on the results of the consultation and our proposed course of action.

Inheritance: Forfeiture Rule and Law of Succession

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): In July 2005, the Law Commission of England and Wales published its report The Forfeiture Rule and the Law of Succession (Law Com No. 295). The report recommends the reform of the law relating to the distribution of the estates of deceased persons where a legacy is forfeited or disclaimed. I am very grateful to the Law Commission for its report.

The Government have carefully considered the report and are pleased to announce that they accept all of the Law Commission's recommendations subject to minor modifications. Legislation will be introduced when parliamentary time allows.

Iraq and Afghanistan: Military Inquests

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My right honourable friend the Minister of State has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence and I wish to make the following Statement to the House about the inquests of service men and women who have died overseas which fall within the jurisdiction of the Oxfordshire coroner, Nicholas Gardiner.

All casualties suffered by the UK Armed Forces are a source of profound regret. UK service personnel have put their lives on the line to help build strong, stable and democratic nations and protect the interests of the United Kingdom and we cannot pay high enough tribute to the job they are doing, or the sacrifice some of them have made. We are committed to assisting the families of UK service personnel who have died on operations overseas when their loved ones are returned to the UK.

We made Statements to the House on 5 June and 12 October with information about the conduct of inquests by the Oxfordshire coroner and today we are announcing progress which has been made since the Written Ministerial Statement in October.

Background

Coroners are independent judicial officers appointed and paid for by the relevant local authority. Their officers and staff are employed by the local authority and/or the police.

Each death of a service man or woman killed in an operation overseas whose body is repatriated to England and Wales is subject to an inquest. The inquest—both the investigation into the death and the

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holding of the public hearing into the death—is conducted by the coroner with jurisdiction which derives from where the body lies. In the case of deaths of service men and women whose bodies are flown into Brize Norton military airbase, the Oxfordshire coroner has jurisdiction.

In the 12 months preceding the June Written Ministerial Statement, in addition to the non-Armed Forces inquests which the coroner has in his jurisdiction, Mr Gardiner and his deputy coroners had conducted 31 inquests into the deaths of servicemen who died in Iraq. One inquest was dealt with by the Powys coroner and one by the Swindon and Wiltshire coroner.

At the time of the June Ministerial Statement, there remained 59 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel killed in Iraq and 11 inquests of civilians whose bodies were flown into Brize Norton. At the time of the October Written Ministerial Statement, a further nine inquests had been held into the deaths of servicemen who have died in Iraq.

When I made the Statement in June, we had only asked the coroner to provide details of inquests into those deaths in his jurisdiction relating to Iraq. By the time of the October Statement the coroner had provided us with details of outstanding inquests into six deaths from previous conflicts or other military exercises abroad and three further civilian casualties, the earliest of which occurred in 1998. The position in relation to the inquests in these additional deaths was reported to the House in the October Statement. Including these deaths, there remained 59 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel and 11 inquests into the deaths of civilians at the time of the October Statement.

Since the October Statement, the coroner has provided us with details of outstanding inquests into six deaths from a military exercise in the Czech Republic in 2004. Including these deaths, there now remain 48 inquests to be concluded into the deaths of service personnel and nine inquests into the deaths of civilians who lost their lives in Iraq and whose bodies were repatriated to RAF Brize Norton.

We have not included in this Statement inquests into a further 11 deaths in Iraq and 33 deaths in Afghanistan which occurred after 15 May 2006 and which were repatriated into Brize Norton, as the additional support for the coroner outlined below is only intended to clear the backlog of cases he had in June. DCA and MoD officials continue to liaise with each other, the Oxfordshire coroner and his assistant deputies on the progress of all of these cases and on how to handle these recent deaths.

Further support for the coroner to conduct inquests on deceased Armed Forces personnel

As we reported to the House in the earlier Statements, the Oxfordshire coroner has appointed the following as additional assistant deputy coroners to assist with conducting the inquests detailed above:

Sir Richard Curtis—who served as a High Court Judge between 1992 and 2005, was appointed on 8 August.

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Ms Selena Lynch—barrister at law, former full-time coroner for Inner South London and currently deputy coroner for South London, was appointed on 5 June.Mr Andrew Walker—barrister at law, deputy coroner for both North London and East London and assistant deputy coroner for both Inner London North and Inner London South, was appointed on 5 June.

To provide support for the coroner and his assistant deputy coroners, the following resources have been made available:

Three additional coroner's officers, Mr Geoff Webb, Mr George Gaff and Mr Derrick Bines have been appointed by Thames Valley Police to support the existing complement of five officers and one officers’ team leader in the Oxfordshire coroner's office. They are supporting the coroners in various ways, including by contacting witnesses, listing inquests and providing support at inquests.An additional administrative assistant, Ms Stella Hartley-Morris has been appointed to the existing administrative assistant in the Oxfordshire coroner's office, who provides administrative support for the investigations and inquests.Recording equipment—to enable two courts to operate simultaneously.

Progress with the remaining inquests

Since the October Ministerial Statement all inquests of deaths have been allocated to the assistant deputy coroners. Eighteen inquests have been held; the inquest into the death of Sergeant Roberts is currently being held; and a further 51 have been listed for hearing.



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In the October Ministerial Statement we said that the coroner intended that all outstanding inquests would either have been held or have a date fixed for the inquest hearing by the end of the year and dates for the remaining six inquests will have been fixed by the end of the year. We are grateful for the efforts of all those involved.

We shall continue to keep the House informed on a quarterly basis about progress through the remaining inquests. Below is a table, which outlines the status of all cases and the date of death of each case.

Liaison with the next of kin

It is of the greatest importance that the next of kin have full information about the progress on the inquest of their deceased next of kin. The extra resources will improve the service provided to families by the Oxfordshire coroner, in addition to the normal liaison between the Ministry of Defence and the families concerned.

In order to further improve the service to families, I invited to meet me the families of service personnel who died in Iraq whose inquests had been held. We are grateful to the 17 relatives of the 12 deceased service men and women who gave us the benefit of their views and experiences so as to improve the inquest system for the benefit of future families of members of the armed services who die abroad.

Following that meeting we are working on providing families with better information about the inquest system, how we can help families to have access to all material relevant to the inquest; and holding inquests closer to where the relatives live.



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Date of deathName of deceasedAllocated toIn process of being listed for hearingDate listedDate inquest heard

06.07.98

Kevin Tucker

Andrew Walker

26.02.07

11.08.98

Michael Watkins

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006

09.04.01

Flight Lieutenant Maguire

Andrew Walker

22.01.07

09.04.01

Captain Crous

Andrew Walker

21.03.03

Lance Bombardier Evans

Andrew Walker

16.04.07

21.03.03

Sergeant Hehir

Andrew Walker

21.03.03

Major Ward (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker

21.03.03

Captain Guy (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker

21.03.03

Warrant Officer 2 Stratford (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker

21.03.03

Colour Sergeant Cecil (Royal Marines)

Andrew Walker

21.03.03

Marine Hedenskog

Andrew Walker

21.03.03

Operator Maintainer (Communications) 1 Seymour (Royal Navy)

Andrew Walker

22.03.03

Lieutenant Wilson

Sir Richard Curtis

03.01.07

22.03.03

Lieutenant West

Sir Richard Curtis

22.03.03

Lieutenant Green

Sir Richard Curtis

22.03.03

Lieutenant Williams

Sir Richard Curtis

22.03.03

Lieutenant King

Sir Richard Curtis

22.03.03

Lieutenant Lawrence

Sir Richard Curtis

22.03.03

Flight Lieutenant Main

Andrew Walker

30-31.10.06 Narrative verdicts

22.03.03

Flight Lieutenant Williams

Andrew Walker

22.03.03

Sapper Allsopp

Andrew Walker

29.09.06 Unlawful killing

22.03.03

Staff Sergeant Cullingworth

Andrew Walker

22.03.03

Terry Lloyd

Andrew Walker

03-13.10.06 Unlawful killing

24.03.03

Sergeant Roberts

Andrew Walker

11.12.06

25.03.03

Corporal Allbutt

Selena Lynch

05.02.07

28.03.03

Lance Corporal of Horse Hull

Andrew Walker

29.01.07

30.03.03

Lance Corporal Brierley

Nicholas Gardiner

21.06.06 Accidental death

30.03.03

Marine Maddison

Andrew Walker

20.11.06 Narrative verdict

30.03.03

Major Ballard

Andrew Walker

27-30.11.06 Narrative verdict

01.04.03

Lance Corporal Shearer

Selena Lynch

24.01.07

06.04.03

Fusilier Turrington

Andrew Walker

28.09.06 Narrative verdict

06.04.03

Private Muzvuru

Selena Lynch

17.11.06 Killed in action

06.04.03

Lance Corporal Malone

Selena Lynch

17.11.06 Killed in action

13.08.03

Private Smith

Andrew Walker

06-10.11.06 Narrative verdict

23.09.03

Sergeant Nightingale

Andrew Walker

27.09.06 Narrative verdict

01.01.04

Sergeant Patterson

Selena Lynch

17.11.06 Accidental death

01.01.04

Major Stenner

02.01.04

Lance Corporal Craw

Andrew Walker

08.01.07

24.05.04

Robert Morgan

Nicholas Gardiner

05.07.06 Unlawful killing

24.05.04

Mark Carman

Nicholas Gardiner

05.07.06 Unlawful killing

22.06.06

Antonio Jose Monteiro-Abelha

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006

28.06.04

Fusilier Gentle

Selena Lynch

28.02.07

19.07.04

Flight Lieutenant Gover

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006 and will be heard in January 2007

09.08.04

Private O'Callaghan

Nicholas Gardiner

21.06.06 Unlawful killing

11.10.04

P Chadwick

Selena Lynch

19.02.07

09.09.04

Captain Loose

Andrew Walker

23.04.07

Sergeant Kemp

Gunner Kelly

Gunner Crain

Gunner Gomersall

Gunner Dimmock

31.10.04

Staff Sergeant Rose

Selena Lynch

13-15.11.06 She killed herself

07.11.04

Shaun Paul Husband

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006

07.11.04

Joseph Terry

08.11.04

Private Tukutukuwaqa

Nicholas Gardiner

05.07.06 Unlawful killing

09.12.04

Raj Gurung

Andrew Walker

Will be listed by end of 2006

01.01.05

John Dolman

Selena Lynch

26.02.07

01.01.05

Nicholas Pears

01.01.05

John Eardley

01.01.05

Tracy Hushin

01.05.05

Guardsman Wakefield

Selena Lynch

11.12.06 Unlawful killing

25.05.05

Lance Corporal Brackenbury

Andrew Walker

14.05.07

29.06.05

Signaller Didsbury

Andrew Walker

15.01.07

15.07.05

Private Spicer

Selena Lynch

29.01.07

15.07.05

Private Hewett

15.07.05

2nd Lieutenant Shearer

30.07.05

Kenneth Hull

Selena Lynch

13.12.06 Unlawful killing

30.07.05

Andrew Holloway

05.09.05

Fusilier Manning

Selena Lynch

15.11.06 Unlawful killing

05.09.05

Fusilier Meade

30.01.06

Lance Corporal Douglas

Selena Lynch

17.11.06 Unlawful killing

31.01.06

Corporal Pritchard

Andrew Walker

21.05.07

02.02.06

Trooper Smith

Selena Lynch

23.02.07

28.02.06

Private Ellis

Selena Lynch

27.11.06 Unlawful killing

28.02.06

Captain Holmes

28.02.06

Lieutenant Palmer

Andrew Walker

21.05.07

22.03.06

Corporal Cridge

Selena Lynch

22.02.07

27.03.06

Lance Corporal Craddock

Selena Lynch

22.02.07

07.05.06

Wing Commander John Coxen

Andrew Walker

21.05.07

07.05.06

Lieutenant Commander Darren Chapman

07.05.06

Captain David Dobson

07.05.06

Flight Lieutenant Sarah-Jayne Mulvihill

07.05.06

Marine Paul Collins

15.05.06

Private Morris

Selena Lynch

14.03.07

15.05.06

Private Lewaicei

Italics denotes non-Iraq related military death
Underlined denotes civilian Iraq related death

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