Download Inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain, 13 December 1995 PDF

TitleInquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain, 13 December 1995
LanguageEnglish
File Size334.5 KB
Total Pages110
Document Text Contents
Page 1

INQUEST INTO THE DEATH OF AZARIA
CHAMBERLAIN

Page 2

CONTENTS

1. THE NEED FOR A FURTHER INQUEST
INTO THE DEATH OF AZARIA CHAMBERLAIN 1

- Introduction 1

- A brief history 1

- The general status of the second inquest 3

- Chronology of the second inquest 3

- The true status of the second inquest 24

- The effect of Section 37(1) of the former Coroners Act 25

- The doctrine of functus officio in relation to coronial
proceedings 30

- The application of section 37(1) and the doctrine of
functus officio to the second inquest 40

2. THE FORM OF THE FURTHER INVESTIGATION 53

3. THE FORM OF THE INQUEST 56

4. THE EVIDENCE TENDERED AT THE INQUEST 58

- The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Chamberlain
convictions and the Morling Report 58

- The decision of the Court of Criminal Appeal of the
Northern Territory - Re Conviction of Chamberlain
(1988) 93 FLR 239 69

5. SUBMISSIONS MADE ON BEHALF
OF THE CHAMBERLAINS 70

6. THE OFFICE OF CORONER 74

7. THE PURPOSE OF AN INQUEST 74

8. THE STANDARD OF PROOF IN CORONIAL
PROCEEDINGS 75

9. THE CONSIDERATION OF ALTERNATE VERDICTS
AT INQUEST 82

10. THE NATURE OF AN OPEN FINDING 88

11. FINDINGS PURSUANT TO SECTION 34
OF THE CORONERS ACT 90

Page 55

52

coroner precluded from making a finding which indicates or suggests the

commission of an offence. Nor he is precluded from naming any person having

caused or contributed to the death. Had the Act contained such provisions that

might have provided sufficient safe guard against the risk of inconsistent

outcomes, but in the absence of such safeguards the risk of a coroner’s finding

being inconsistent with the verdict in criminal proceedings is a substantial one.

Therefore, where a coroner commits a person for trial pursuant to the provisions

of Section 37(3), the inquest should then be adjourned and either resumed or

dispensed with following the conclusion of any criminal proceedings.



It is, of course, in the interests of the administration of justice that an accused

person receive a fair trial. That no doubt forms part of the rationale behind

Section 38, and underpins the need for a coroner to adjourn an inquest, and to

postpone his findings where during the course of an inquest he commits a

person for trial. Mr Calvin CM was fully aware of the entitlement of Mr and Mrs

Chamberlain to a fair trial, and for that reason did not announce and publish his

findings at the time he committed Mr and Mrs Chamberlain for trial. However,

rather than adjourn the inquest, he purported to conclude the inquest, whilst

deferring the publication of his findings until after the trial. But those findings

were never published.



In my opinion, the second inquest was not properly conducted in accordance

with either common law requirements, or the provisions of the Coroners Act.

Page 56

53

When Mr Galvin CM committed the Chamberlains for trial he should have (a)

adjourned the inquest, (b) following the conclusion of the criminal processes

either resumed the inquest or dispensed with further holding of the inquest and,

(c) in either case announced, published and recorded findings in accordance

with the requirements of Section 37. The failure to do any one of those things

was sufficient to the render the inquest incomplete either because the Coroner

was not functus officio or because the inquest (including his findings) was a

nullity.



THE FORM OF THE FURTHER INVESTIGATION



As the second inquest into the death of Azaria Chamberlain has never been

completed, the inquiry into the death of Azaria Chamberlain, which began in

1981, is caught by the provisions of Section 49 of the Coroners Act 1993 which

provides:

“(1) In this section the “former Act” means the Coroners Act as in force

immediately before the commencement of this Act.

(2) An inquest or inquiry commenced under the former Act and not completed

before the commencement of this Act shall, on that commencement, be deemed

to be an investigation under this Act and the coroner conducting the

investigation has the jurisdiction powers and functions vested under this Act.”

In Section 3 of the Act “investigation” is defined as including an inquest.

Like Section 37 (1) of the old Act, Section 34 of the new Act imposes upon a

coroner a statutory duty to record certain findings in relation to the death.

Section 34 reads as follows:

“(1) A coroner investigating -

(a) a death shall, if possible, find -

(i) the identity of the deceased person;

(ii) the time and place of death;

Page 109

106

Thus far, Mr Tipple’s submissions as to the deleterious effect of an open finding

on the Chamberlain’s status of innocence can not be sustained. However, Mr

Tipple also submits that an open finding would lead to speculation that the death

was due to causes other than accidental causes, and presumably create

mischief. I now deal with that submission.



An open finding will, by its very nature, lead to speculation that Azaria’s death

was due to non-accidental causes. However, undoubtedly such speculation

existed within the community even after the findings of the Morling Report and

the subsequent quashing of the Chamberlain convictions. Such speculation

continues to this very day. Regardless of the outcome of the present inquest,

whether it were to result in a positive finding (one implicating either Mrs

Chamberlain or the dingo), or an open finding, speculation over the cause and

manner of Azaria’s death would remain. What is important, however, is that any

such speculation, inevitable as it is, can never disturb the unassailable fact that

as a matter of public record the “law of the land holds Mr and Mrs Chamberlain

to be innocent.”



I foresee that many members of the community may disagree with the

conclusion I have reached. Two factors may go a long way towards explaining

that lack of unanimity. The first is the fact that I have had the advantage of

having all the evidence before me. The second is that the mental processes

leading up to my decision have been confined and structured by a set of legal

principles governing the standard of proof in coronial cases.

Page 110

107

Pursuant to the provisions of Section 34 of the Coroners Act I make the
following findings:

(1) The name of the deceased was Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain,
the daughter of Michael Leigh Chamberlain and Alice Lynne Chamberlain.

(2) Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain, a female caucasian, was born at
Mount Isa Queensland on 11th June 1980. Her usual place of residence
was 3 Abel Smith Parade, Sunset, Mount Isa, Queensland.

(3) Azaria Chantel Loren Chamberlain died at Ayers Rock on 17th day of
August 1980.

(4) As to the cause of her death and the manner in which she died the
evidence adduced does not enable me to say. I therefore return an open
finding and record the cause and manner of death as unknown.


Dated this 13th day of December 1995.


Mr John Lowndes
Coroner for the
Northern Territory.

Similer Documents