Journalists were left playing catch-up after a “secret” inquest was held into the death of Holby City actress Laura Sadler.
The hearing was held on Wednesday, 28 August at West London Coroner’s Court in Fulham. But details of the verdict were not released to the press until a week later.
Initial press reports last Thursday contained no details at all about the hearing. But by the following day journalists had managed to obtain papers revealing that the actress had consumed wine, vodka and cocaine on the night she died.
The 22-year-old died after falling 40 feet from a balcony at the home of her boyfriend in Holland Park. She survived for several days on a life support machine after the accident, attracting widespread attention from the press.
A spokesman for West London Coroner’s Court said: “The inquest was opened on 23 June. The press were invited to that but nobody came. An opening came up on 27 August to hold the inquest. Normally we would have phoned around and let people know it was happening. It was an oversight. It was held in open court so people could have gone down and listened if they’d wanted to.”
A Home Of?ce review of the coroner system is currently being carried out and one of the proposals is that the number of public inquests be reduced.
However, under the current rules journalists have the right to attend any inquest, unless there is a risk to national security.
Newspaper Society legal expert Santha Rasaiah said: “There is no statutory requirement for the press to be given advance notice of any inquest.
“However, Home Of?ce circular 53/1980 draws coroners’ attention to the recommendation of the Working Party on Coroners’ Rules that the press should be properly informed of all inquest arrangements.”
By Dominic Ponsford