AGC clarifies why no Coroner's Inquiry was held for prison inmate's death

Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah’s two sisters and a family friend (in blue) consoling Dinesh’s mother, Madam Sel (in chair) on Sept 29, 2010. The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) on Thursday, July 25, 2013, clarified why there was no Coroner's Inqui
Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah’s two sisters and a family friend (in blue) consoling Dinesh’s mother, Madam Sel (in chair) on Sept 29, 2010. The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) on Thursday, July 25, 2013, clarified why there was no Coroner's Inquiry into the death of Changi Prison inmate Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) on Thursday clarified why there was no Coroner's Inquiry into the death of Changi Prison inmate Dinesh Raman Chinnaiah.

Mr Dinesh died while in prison on Sept 27, 2010, due to breathing difficulties while he was placed chest down on the ground in an isolation cell. Senior prison officer Lim Kwo Yin, 36, pleaded guilty to causing his death by negligence on July 19.

Under the Coroners Act, the Coroner is required to hold an inquiry into any death that occurs while in official custody - for instance, where an inmate dies in prison, the AGC said in a statement.

The purpose of such an inquiry is to look into the cause of and circumstances connected with the death. Such inquiry would usually focus upon matters such as the identity of the deceased, and how, when and where he came by his death.

The Act also provides that where any person is charged with an offence such causing hurt, culpable homicide or murder, in relation to an act which caused or could have caused the death of the deceased, the Coroner shall await the conclusion of such criminal proceedings.

"Where a finding has been made in criminal proceedings as to the cause of and the circumstances connected with the death, the Coroner has a discretion to discontinue the proceedings before him if he determines that there is no longer a need for an inquiry to take place to determine the cause of and circumstances connected with the death," the statement added.

It is not uncommon for inquiries to be adjourned or discontinued, where the AGC commences criminal prosecution in respect of the death caused. The Coroner will then consider the findings made at the conclusion of such criminal proceedings, and determine if there is still a need for an inquiry to proceed.

The Prosecution does not have powers under the law to compel the Coroner to adjourn or discontinue an inquiry, said the statement.