Gavin Drake


Coroner rebuked for “shame on media” comments at Lucy Meadows inquest

The coroner who presided over the inquest into the death of Lucy Meadows has been rebuked by the Office for Judicial Complaints for carrying out private research into the case and for his outspoken attack on journalists covering the hearing.

Lucy Meadows killed herself in March, just a few months after she began to live and work as a woman. Newspaper reports had previously revealed that parents of children at St Mary Magdalene primary school in Accrington, Lancashire, had been told before Christmas that teacher Nathan Upton would return to school in the New Year as Lucy Meadows.

At the inquest in May, Coroner Michael Singleton explained that he had carried out private research into the case and said he was “appalled” at the media coverage. He then attacked the journalists covering the hearing on the press benches, saying to them: “And to you the Press, I say shame. Shame on all of you.”

The evidence heard at the Inquest pointed to issues other than media coverage as being the dominant factors in Meadows’ decision to take her own life. A number of witnesses clearly stated that media coverage wasn’t a factor. Despite this, Coroner Singleton allowed his private research to sway his judicial decision making. He even wrote a Section 43 letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport urging far-reaching curbs on the freedom of the press.

“Section 43” refers to the Coroners Rules 1984, the legislation detailing how coroners courts work, and states that “A coroner who believes that action should be taken to prevent the recurrence of fatalities similar to that in respect of which the inquest is being held may announce at the inquest that he is reporting the matter in writing to the person or authority who may have power to take such action and he may report the matter accordingly.”

The coroner’s behaviour was appalling, As a journalist affected by his comments and his Section 43 letter, I wrote an open letter to the Lord Chancellor setting out my concerns.

The Lord Chancellor’s office passed my letter to the Office for Judicial Complaints and they have now confirmed that Coroner Michael Singleton has been rebuked for his comments about the media, for conducting his own private research, and for sending a Section 43 letter on the basis of private research.

The Office for Judicial Complaints say the issues were “dealt with by way of informal advice to the Coroner.”

Earlier this week I asked Coroner Singleton whether he wished to retract his comments about the media or make an apology. He did not respond. An official in his office this afternoon said that Coroner Singleton was “not available for any comment.”

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  • What about Lucy Meadows, It seems like your totally missing the point that he and many other people and those who have better understanding of trans issues than you will ever have say that something needs to be done in regards to this. Look at how you had tell everyone Lucys old name. there was just no need. Do you not think these issues need properly address if a coroner is saying that something needed to done and willing to stick his own neck on it. Lets be honest Mr Drake your views are totally based on your faith which totally making you far from non biased! how about you move away from blaming someone for standing up and saying something is wrong. In truth you are defending your profession because your colleges murdered a trans person and you would rather argue the semantics than face the facts.

    • Wow! What a rant.

      My colleagues murdered nobody. An inquest ruled that Lucy Meadows took her own life. I find it reprehensible that people are trying to make political capital out of such a tragic event.

      You can argue that the press coverage was unwarranted. You can argue that the media should never report a person’s decision to transition. You can argue that Lucy Meadows received a raw deal. All that is a fair topic for perfectly proper debate.

      But an inquest is not the place to do that unless there is EVIDENCE that supports it – that’s the point. An inquest is a court of law which is supposed to explore evidence in a way that allows it to be tested by the parties. An inquest that hears un-challenged EVIDENCE that the media coverage played no part in the decision to commit suicide; but then results in the coroner going off on one on the basis of private research that did not form part of the EVIDENCE and was not tested in court is a breach of everything that courts are supposed to do.

      If the Coroner believed that media coverage was to blame he should have instructed his coroner’s officer or the police to investigate this and produce EVIDENCE that could have been tested during the hearing.

      Those are the facts and I argue no semantics. I don’t know why you think my faith has any bearing on this whatsoever. I don’t understand how a person of faith – whatever that faith may be – should hold a different view to the rest of society that courts should operate within the law: and that’s the only thing I’ve commented on.

      I agree with you that there are issues with how transgender people are treated. But the inquest wasn’t the place to do that without the evidence to support it.

    • What I don’t understand is why so many of the people who call themselves Christians seem to dislike transsexuals and other gender variant people.

      If you saw the first episode of “The Dark Ages: an Age of Light” that screened recently on BBC4, you’ll know that all the earliest depictions of Jesus show a youthful-looking, clean shaven figure with long, flowing hair, soft, feminine features and small breasts. One early statue looks so feminine that it was originally thought to be a woman, but later turned out to be a representation of Jesus!

      The stern, bearded portrayal of Christ that we’re usually shown today is a fictional creation of Church leaders in the Middle Ages, who wanted something that would terrorise an unruly populace into submission. The original Jesus was a joyous, carefree figure who was both man and woman. It even says as much in an oft-quoted passage from the bible: “… there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

      Perhaps people like Mr Drake should rethink their medieval attitudes and go back to the roots of their religion!

      • What on earth has any of that got to do with the post content?

        • In her comment, amongst other things Kitten said:
          “Lets be honest Mr Drake your views are totally based on your faith”
          so I was adding my own views on why people who call themselves Christians should be more Christian in their attitudes! Sorry if that doesn’t apply to you, I just assumed that it was your religion because of what Kitten said.

  • Have you actually checked with the Office of Judicial Complaints whether or not Mr. Michael Singleton (the coroner in question) has received an official rebuke for his condemnation of the presses behaviour before publishing your rant?? Or are you again just reporting what other journalists are writing??
    I would suggest that you do before committing this as fact online. From my own research, it would appear that no official rebuke has been issued.

  • No journalists were writing anything about the OJC before I wrote this blog (you can check the timings via Google).

    I don’t know what your research is; but my research is a personally addressed letter to me from the Office of Judicial Complaints following my open letter to the Lord Chancellor; plus, phone calls to the Ministry of Justice press office and the office of the coroner, and an email to the coroner.

  • …… and does that letter state anywhere in it that Mr. Singleton has received an official rebuke for his conduct during the inquest or his comments about the media??

  • Hmmmm, so does that mean you wish to accept sole responsibility for creating all the media related stories which followed your revelation Mr. Drake???

  • Yes, we can’t have people go about publicly voicing their opinions in a way that negatively impacts journalists. Only journalists are allowed to do this to other people. In the interests of ‘free speech’ of course.

  • Still waiting for clarification Mr. Drake about whether the letter which you received from the OJC specifically mentioned that Mrs Singleton had been officially rebuked over the matter – or was it more a friendly arm around the shoulder type of advice that maybe he ought to consider the outrage that would ensue from the media by making such comments.

  • My investigations have now revealed that the case against Mr. Singleton was rejected by the OJC Mr. Drake, I wonder if that is why you have suddenly decided to go very quiet on this issue.
    No official rebuke was in fact issued against him.

    • I haven’t “suddenly decided to go very quiet on this issue”. I do have a life outside of the blog, you know.

      I thought I had replied to one of your posts on Saturday, but I can’t see it here, in which I said I wasn’t prepared to continue an argument with you because you come across as the type of person who would argue that Dulux Minted Pea isn’t a tin of green paint.

      You claim you have “investigated”. Fine – go write a blog and publish your investigation. As I have said, I have a letter from the OJC and I have spoken to the Ministry of Justice press office and I have given Coroner Singleton an opportunity to comment (in which he could have denied the story). He declined to do so.

      I stand by my account. If you want to publish a different account, fine – go ahead and do that; but on your own blog please. This comment facility is for comments on my blog posts. You have done that and I have explained that you’re wrong. I don’t intend to continue the conversation with you especially as you are bordering on the side of abuse.

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