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What is a verdict of unlawful killing?


During the course of the inquests into the Stardust nightclub fire, coroner Dr Myra Cullinane outlined the five verdicts that were open to the 12 members of the jury.

She said there were five possible verdicts available to them – accidental death, death by misadventure, unlawful killing, open verdict and narrative verdict.

Dr Cullinane said for the jurors to return a verdict of unlawful killing, then the standard of proof needed was “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

The jury must consider all of the evidence they heard to reach their determinations, she said, and what evidence to accept or reject was a matter for them.

Jurors were also reminded by Dr Cullinane that the proceedings were inquisitorial, with the purpose to inquire into a given death and to establish certain facts and to return a verdict based on the evidence that they had heard.

It was a fact-finding exercise and not a trial, she said.

Referring to the Coroner’s Act, Dr Cullinane said civil or criminal liability shall not be considered or investigated and added that the “language is clear” – the jurors could not investigate or consider whether any person is liable or responsible for a given death.

She said, too, that they cannot conclude that a person committed a crime or is guilty of negligence.

The Act states that no finding or verdict shall contain censure or exoneration of any person, she said.

Dr Cullinane added that the findings must be factual in nature and not blame anybody.

The coroner said in plain terms, the verdicts and findings were about acts and omissions and not about who may have carried them out.


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