In 2013 there were 263 reported diving incidents in the UK, 14 of which resulted in the death of a diver.
In the unfortunate event of a fatality there will be an investigation into what happened. The police and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will gather evidence and consider whether there are grounds to bring a prosecution: this will usually focus on those in charge of the dive and the equipment being used.
In addition, the local coroner is required to conduct an investigation into how, and in what circumstances, the diver came by his death. The evidence relied upon by the coroner will usually consist of witness statements, any photographic or video evidence: often utilising the material gathered by the police or the HSE. Also, the coroner will be looking at expert evidence: the pathologist’s report, any relevant medical evidence, as well as expert examination of the breathing apparatus used.
Once the evidence is gathered, the coroner will hold an inquest, sometimes this will be before a jury. This is an important process and is often the first time evidence is called and examined in court.
Who may need legal representation:
The family of the deceased will be a “properly interested party” and are entitled to be legally represented if they wish.
Other interested parties may be:
- diving instructors / supervisors
- dive organisers
- equipment manufacturers
- the Health and Safety Executive
Outcome of the inquest
If, following the inquest decision, the coroner believes that action should be taken to prevent the recurrence of fatalities in similar circumstances, he may write to the persons or training organisations involved and issue recommendations to them.
Furthermore, material gathered during the course of an inquest will be potential material in relation to:
- criminal prosecution (by either the police or HSE)
- civil action against all or some of the interested parties
Why be legally represented?
To ensure the questions and issues relevant to your case are thoroughly examined with the witnesses:
- If you are the bereaved family, an advocate can assist in ensuring the true circumstances of your loved one’s death are explored so you can get to the truth of what really happened. In addition, answers to the questions asked on your behalf will form the basis of any future civil claim if you wish to take action against a negligent party.
- If you are an instructor, supervisor, training organisation etc. facing criticism and possible future legal proceedings, an advocate can advise you on the issue of whether you should answer questions if called to be a witness. They can also ensure questions pertinent to any future claim against you are asked on your behalf.