Coroner's Inquest in England
The legal position was complicated by the fact that although the accident occurred in Scotland, some of the injured subsequently died in England where the law was different. In Scotland, deaths were investigated by the Procurator fiscal who if he found culpability on the part of anyone could order their arrest and charge with culpable homicide. In England the coroner investigates death and if the coroner's jury found that death was due to neglect then the coroner could indict charges of manslaughter against the named parties. The coroner for Carlisle, Mr T S Strong, asked for guidance from the Home Office and was instructed to conduct inquests on those who had died in England in the normal way. The inquest opened on 25 May but was immediately adjourned until 23 June to allow Col Druitt to finish his investigation. After two days hearing evidence from, among others, Tinsley, Meakin and Hutchinson, Strong summed up the evidence to the 19 man jury. He concluded his summing up with:
If you find as a result of your deliberations that the rules and safeguards were broken by one or more of the railwaymen concerned, or in other words that they have been negligent, there remains one point which you must decide, and it is this.
Was that negligence of such a character—having regard to all the surroundings—as to be culpable negligence, or in other words gross negligence?
If so it was manslaughter.
The jury retired and an hour later came back with a verdict that the 27 people who were the subject of the inquest had died due to the gross negligence of Tinsley, Meakin and Hutchinson. The coroner therefore committed all three to the next sitting of Cumberland Assizes on a charge of manslaughter; all three were granted bail.
The verdict of the English inquest left Tinsley in an unusual position as he had already been arrested by the Scottish authorities and charged with culpable homicide and now faced a charge of manslaughter in England based on the same facts. After discussion between the Law Officers of England and Scotland it was decided to proceed against the three men in Scotland.
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