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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Parents of autistic woman killed by lorry win battle to replace coroner

Written by Izzy Lyons

The parents of an autistic woman who died after being struck by a lorry have won a legal battle to replace the coroner overseeing her inquest.

Colette McCulloch (pictured), 35, was killed on the A1 in July 2016 while she was under the care of a residential care home near Bedford.

Ian Pears, the acting senior coroner investigating her death, agreed to stand down after Andrew and Amanda McCulloch instructed lawyers to pursue a judicial review of his "dismissive" and "biased" handling of the case.

It was the second time the family had launched legal proceedings to review the coroner in charge of the inquest.

The solicitor said the case is "a stark reminder" why improvements are "badly needed" for bereaved families in the coronial system.

Mr McCulloch said the process to remove Mr Pears was "exhausting, stressful and involved considerable expense".

He said: "Colette's death was completely devastating for us. But then having to fight a coroner like this to get justice has nearly destroyed us. Only the support of our dedicated legal team, and our older daughter, has kept us going.

"From our initial hearing, we have found him to be dismissive. He did not answer letters often for weeks and his responses we felt were confrontational."

Mr Pears also made decisions which the McCullochs claim affected their ability to access legal aid, leaving them to fund their legal costs through online donations platform CrowdJustice.

The allegations, sent in a letter to Mr Pears on May 4, said a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude there was a real possibility that the acting senior coroner was biased against the family.

Mr Pears conceded the bereaved family's grievance and stood down from the inquest.

Merry Varney, the family's solicitor, of Leigh Day solicitors, said: "Although this decision by acting senior coroner Pears is very welcome, it is a complete travesty that the parents have had to go through this.

"Had their concerns been listened to by the coroner in December 2016, their daughter's death may by now have been fully investigated. Instead, with memories of those involved fading and opportunity for prompt change lost, they only now can look forward to a public, full and fearless investigation into Colette's death.

"This case is a stark reminder why improvements to the coronial system and the treatment of bereaved families is so badly needed."

The family is still awaiting news of the appointment of a replacement coroner for the inquest.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) #JusticeforCol.