HC Deb 08 March 1945 vol 408 cc2208-10
25. Mr. Reakes

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of important additional medical evidence submitted to him recently with regard to Brian Baldock, a two years old evacuee to Wallasey, who was dead when a local medical practitioner was called in, he will now order a public investigation into the failure of the coroner to hold an inquest on the deceased child.

Mr. H. Morrison

The medical practitioner who was called in in this case immediately reported the death to the coroner. The coroner directed the police surgeon to hold a post mortem examination and the coroner's officer also took statements from Mrs. Baldock and from Mrs. Budd. The police surgeon, having made the examination, reported that there were no signs of violence, that the body was well nourished and that death was due to natural causes, namely cardiac syncope due to broncho-pneumonia. I am informed that there was no information before the coroner or the police at that time to suggest ill-treatment either of the dead boy or his brother; and the coroner, in view of the post mortem report, decided that an inquest was unnecessary and issued his certificate of death from natural causes to the Registrar. This is the action which the coroner is authorised by law to take in a case where he is satisfied, as a result of post mortem examination, that an inquest is unnecessary. I may add that the coroner died on 15th December, 1944. The hon. Member has sent me some information in which it is suggested that the doctor who was called in should have been consulted by the coroner, but I understand that he was asked by the coroner's officer if he wished to make a statement but declined to do so.

Mr. Reakes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the medical practitioner who was called in has given me a signed statement, which I will pass to him, in which he says there was a blue bruise on the forehead of the child, that the body was ill-nourished and the abdominal wall was contracted; and is the right hon. Gentleman now prepared to take that into consideration, jointly with the fact that the brother, aged 3½, was the subject of a cruelty charge, which was found proved by the magistrates?

Mr. Morrison

That was not known at the time of this medical examination. If this is the doctor who was first called in—I take it that is so—I cannot understand why he did not call the attention of the coroner to this. There was a post-mortem examination by the police surgeon, who reported quite contrary to what' has just now been said. Finally, the coroner himself is dead. Therefore I do not see how an inquiry can proceed.

Earl Winterton

Surely the right hon. Gentleman must have regard to the evidence that has just been produced by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Reakes). If that evidence is to the effect that the hon. Member has said, it would be monstrous if there were not to be a further investigation.

Mr. Morrison

With great respect, I am not sure. If the hon. Member sends me that statement I will consider it, but I am really at a loss to understand, if it is the case, as appears, that the doctor was of that opinion, why, when he was asked by the coroner's officer if he wished to make a statement, he declined to do so.