The Inquest team is made up of a coroner, counsel assisting the coroner, solicitors, a registrar and a family liaison officer.
Coroner Jacqui Hawkins was appointed as a Coroner in January 2014. Prior to her appointment, she was the Court’s Senior Legal Counsel and established the In-house Legal Service. Coroner Hawkins was previously a Partner at Landers & Rogers in the Workplace Relations and Safety Group. She specialised in occupational health and safety and was the partner responsible for the Specialist Inquest Panel on the Victorian Government Legal Panel.
Since becoming a Coroner, she has investigated thousands of reportable deaths and conducted many inquests, some of which have made important recommendations in public health and safety.
Inquest into the death of Sonia Sofianopoulos
Coroner Hawkins conducted an Inquest in May 2018 into the public health and safety aspects of open flued gas heaters, particularly in government housing and the wider population. After hearing evidence from a number of experts from a wide range of Government and non-government organisations, she made a number of recommendations, all of which were accepted in principle by a whole of Government response.
Inquest into the death of Ms A
In the inquest into the death of Ms A, who died from a heroin overdose in Richmond, Coroner Hawkins investigated the impact of heroin overdoses generally and the unprecedented number of deaths that were occurring in this suburb. A number of experts gave evidence about potential options to reduce harm and deaths associated with heroin overdose. In February 2017, Coroner Hawkins made several recommendations associated with harm reduction including a recommendation to the Victorian Government to trial a Safe Injecting Facility.
After conducting a Parliamentary Enquiry into this issue, the Victorian Government established a Safe Injecting Facility in July 2018. Early enquiries suggest that this facility is saving many lives.
In her time as Coroner, she has also conducted some high profile unsolved homicides.
Inquest into the death of Margaret Penny and Claire Acocks
In 2017, Coroner Hawkins conducted an Inquest into the deaths of Mrs Penny and Mrs Acocks. After hearing all of the evidence, she was unable to determine the person or persons responsible for the murders of Mrs Penny and Mrs Acocks. Further, she found there was no evidence to support a finding that Mrs Penny’s husband, Robert Penny was involved in or arranged for their murders.
Inquest into the death of Baby Chloe Murphy
Coroner Hawkins held an inquest into the death of Baby Chloe Murphy, who died in 2010 from severe head injuries. After hearing extensive evidence, she made a Finding that the babysitter was responsible for her death.
Counsels assisting the Coroner
Mr Stephen O'Meara QC
Stephen came to the Bar in 1998 from Arthur Robinson & Hedderwicks where he had been a Senior Associate in commercial litigation. He took silk in 2011.
Stephen has experience in many kinds of complex litigation and regularly appears in the Court of Appeal and at trial in the Supreme and County Courts.
In recent years Stephen has acted for and advised clients in class actions, transport accident and workplace injury litigation of all types, product liability, medical negligence, medical panel disputes, statutory compensation, insurance, coronial inquests and media/defamation cases.
Mr Paul Lawrie
Paul's civil practice consists mainly of appearance work for defendant parties in personal injuries matters involving intentional torts and negligence actions.
Paul has extensive experience in coronial inquests having appeared for interested parties of all sorts including: product and infrastructure manufacturers, family members, local and State authorites. He has also appeared as Counsel assisting the Coroner. Paul also has experience with Royal Commissions, acting for large organisations.
Paul's criminal practice involves a broad spectrum of defence work (including commercial crime, compulsory examinations and occupational health & safety matters). He is also briefed to conduct prosecutions on behalf of various regulators and State authorities.
Immediately before coming to the Bar Paul worked as a solicitor with Clayton Utz (Melbourne) in commercial litigation.