Editor’s comment: Delay to JJ’s inquest adds insult to injury

Jonathon 'JJ' McPhillips. Picture: Michelle McPhillips

Jonathon 'JJ' McPhillips. Picture: Michelle McPhillips - Credit: Archant

We share a little of Michelle McPhillips’ frustration at the delay in getting justice for her son’s murder, though of course we can’t know her grief or anger.

The last-minute decision to postpone JJ’s inquest (of which the press, incidentally, wasn’t notified, meaning the Gazette actually turned up at court on Monday morning) because of safety concerns is both farcical and insensitive considering the authorities have had nearly two years to organise it.

Last year, Nashon Esbrand’s grieving family told us of their exasperation as his killer’s sentencing was delayed again and again for administrative reasons, with seemingly little regard for what his mum, dad and brother had to go through emotionally each time they prepared to face their son’s murderer – and each time they had to stand down with the case still hanging over them, no resolution, and the knowledge they’d have to do it all again.

The purpose of an inquest is slightly vague. Officially, a coroner is meant to determine how someone died, but he or she can do this in private. Why, then, hold an inquest?

One reason is to compel witnesses to give evidence.

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Another is to reassure the public that certain types of death (including suspicious or violent ones) will be investigated.

Yet this reassurance is hollow because an inquest expressly does not seek to impart blame, and has no punitive ability. Even if it is deemed that JJ was unlawfully killed, no justice for his family can directly result.

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So it was in recent years following the deaths of Henry Hicks and Dawood Robinson: their inquests were an opportunity for their families to demand answers, but nothing more. Nothing they said could have resulted in anyone being punished.

All the same, to deny Michelle McPhillips even that is cruel.

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