“An inquest is, basically, a judicial inquiry in order to ascertain the facts of an incident. … The function and purpose of the Inquest Act 1959 is to provide for the holding of these kinds of inquiries in cases of deaths (or alleged deaths) which have occurred other than from natural causes.”
There are mainly four types of inquests among which a judicial inquest is usually believed to be of higher standard and carries more evidentiary weight than the others. The following are types of inquests:
1. Police inquest;
2. Coroner’s inquest;
3. Magistrate’s inquest or in the present case of The Gambia with regard that of the Late Ambassador Dawda Fadera, Judicial inquest;
4. Medical examiner’s inquest.
An inquest is not adversarial in nature and is solely an investigation of the circumstances surrounding a death of a person.
An inquest is done to investigate the circumstances of a death which is sudden and marred by unexplained circumstances which can be also attributable to medical negligence and to ensure that a similar occurrence is prevented in the future. It is not a trial seeking to make a finding of legal liability and or responsibility. The attorney general in his own words believes that the death of Ambassador Fadera “raise a reasonable suspicion with regard to the cause of death” of Ambassador Dawda Fadera.
It seems but not certain in this instance that, an autopsy has been conducted on the deceased and the findings of such an autopsy has necessitated the attorney general to make a formal request to the Chief Justice of The Gambia for a judicial inquest.
As a lawyer who is very passionate about medical negligence and ethics, I believe this is a brilliant move by the attorney general to confirm or dispel accurately, any rumours of foul play surrounding the death of Ambassador Fadera.
It is a very unprecedented move in recent times but a very commendable one.