One of Derbyshire’s highest judicial figures is calling for a criminal investigation over claims linked to the heart of the British Government, the Derbyshire Times can exclusively reveal.
Dr Robert Hunter, senior coroner for Derby and Derbyshire, has informed police of allegations that Government civil servants attempted to remove him from presiding over a high-profile inquest about a killed British aid worker.
The Government rejects any suggestion that it has acted inappropriatelyGovernment spokesman
Dr Hunter has sent a file to Derbyshire Constabulary requesting that the force investigates whether there had been any conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and if Government ministers were involved in the alleged bid to remove him.
The Government categorically denies any wrongdoing.
The revelation came at Chesterfield coroners’ court during a pre-inquest hearing overseen by Dr Hunter regarding the death of Khalil Dale, who was abducted by armed gunmen while working with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Quetta, south-west Pakistan, in January 2012.
Mr Dale’s body was found dumped at a roadside in that area in April 2012.
His kidnappers left a note on his body saying he had been killed because they had not received a ransom.
Initial post-mortem findings showed Mr Dale, 60, had been decapitated.
One of the matters to be explored at the full inquest – which is expected to be concluded in Chesterfield by the autumn – is what arrangements were made by organisations including the Government following the abduction of Mr Dale, who is buried in Derbyshire.
During last Monday’s hearing, Dr Hunter – who opened Mr Dale’s inquest almost three years ago, in May 2012 – said he was now in receipt of a number of emails between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Cabinet Office and other agencies detailing how they should respond to his requests for the disclosure of documents.
Dr Hunter told the court he was concerned about an e-mail in which a Cabinet Office official had stated: “On a more general point, if our firm aim remains to get the coroner changed, I am still not sure why we are rushing to respond now. It might be worth checking with Counsel that we are not undermining our own position by doing so.”
Dr Hunter voiced concern in court that by discussing a “firm aim to get the coroner changed”, civil servants were apparently interfering with the doctrine of separation of powers and the independence of a judicial officer.
He told the court he had sent a file to the police and requested that they start a criminal investigation to establish whether there had been any conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and if this action had the sanction and approval of Government ministers.
After the hearing, a Government spokesman said: “We will not comment on ongoing coronial proceedings, but the Government rejects any suggestion that it has acted inappropriately.
“The Government will continue to cooperate fully with the inquest.”
The spokesman would not comment on the reasons for the “firm aim” to remove Dr Hunter from presiding over the inquest.
A Derbyshire Constabulary spokesman said: “All we can say is we’re in correspondence with the coroner.”
When approached by the Derbyshire Times, Dr Hunter said he could not comment further.