Ranked Tier 1 for Inquests and Inquiries in The Legal 500 (2024)
Ranked Band 2 for Inquests & Public Inquiries in Chambers & Partners (2024) – 4 years ranked
Ranked Band 2 for Inquests & Public Inquiries in Chambers & Partners (2023)
“Excellent combination of assertiveness and tact; she is especially valued in sensitive inquests.” Chambers & Partners (2024)
‘Kirsten has excellent understanding of the law and weaves this into her superb advocacy. She is a masterclass in inquest questioning – focused, clear and appropriate.’ Legal 500 (2024)
“Kirsten is a committed and client-focused advocate. She is worthy of the praise she receives.” Chambers & Partners 2023
‘Kirsten is a fearless advocate. She always has a full grasp of the facts, is resolute in court, and her examination of witnesses is consistently well-structured, concise and precise. Kirsten is unflappable.’ Legal 500 (2023)
“Kirsten is an advocate with faultless attention to detail. She is brilliant with witnesses, and always prepared to ask difficult questions when required.” Legal 500 (2022)
“Her client focused attitude coupled with her tenacity ensures she delivers a premium service to those who instruct her, She has a serious attitude to the matter in hand, delivering well prepared and fully researched work. A trusted barrister in her field.” Legal 500 (2021)
“She has a special touch with clients having their first encounter with the law.” Chambers and Partners 2022
“She was so impressive – she was tactical and astute in her analysis.” “She is cool and calm with clients and very reassuring.” – Chambers & Partners (2021)
Kirsten Mercer specialises in inquests, professional disciplinary and regulatory crime.
Kirsten is a highly impressive inquest advocate and has a broad inquest practice, representing a wide array of interested persons in inquests including bereaved families, healthcare providers, care homes, insurers and government departments. With extensive knowledge of coronial law and Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights she is frequently involved in arguments regarding the engagement of Article 2.
Kirsten accepts instructions both to prosecute and defend in prosecutions brought by the Health and Safety Executive or Environment Agency.
Kirsten was appointed to the Attorney General’s list of Civil Advocates in 2012 and has ten years of experience representing government departments at inquest. She is particularly well regarded for her handling of matters involving deaths in custody and is sought after in cases where the probation service have been involved in supervising either the deceased or the perpetrator of an unlawful killing. Kirsten is regularly involved in complex and sensitive Article 2 inquests both with and without a jury. She draws strength from her grounding in criminal law, which makes her a natural in front of a jury and from which she has developed a thorough understanding of how to take the best tactical approach to best assist both the inquest and her client.
Kirsten has also been appointed to the Specialist Regulatory Prosecution panel of advocates and prosecutes on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive. She brings that experience to her inquest practice where there is any suggestion of a breach of health and safety legislation. Kirsten is able to provide continuity of representation should any criminal or professional disciplinary proceedings arise out of the issues explored during an inquest.
Kirsten has a keen interest in representing families in cases where there has been a death following or as a result of domestic violence. She is relentless in her desire to ensure such deaths are properly investigated and all evidence is considered by the police and Coroner. She takes on such instructions direct access and often on a pro bono basis to represent families in this type of case. Kirsten has a developing relationship with AAFDA (Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse). Kirsten also acts for healthcare providers in prisons and more widely.
Inquest into the death of AOO (November 2022)
Represented the MOJ in the inquest into the death of a man who died from synthetic cannabinoid toxicity. The inquest explored issues including the adequacy of the communication between healthcare and the prison staff, training regarding recognising substance misuse, assessment by the mental health nurses and the emergency response. The jury returned a narrative conclusion.
Inquest into the death of MRS (October 2022)
Represented the MOJ in the inquest into the death of a man who died from hanging in the days after being recalled to custody. The inquest explored issues including his risk of suicide, the medical assessment undertaken, control and restraint procedures and the emergency response. The jury returned a narrative conclusion.
Inquest into the death of JC (October 2022)
Represented the probation service in an inquest into the death of JC who died from hanging in the community. The inquest explored the support he was given by a number of different agencies, the response of the ambulance service and the police to 999 calls made by JC and others and the way the housing authority had dealt with complaints made by JC. The Coroner returned a short narrative conclusion.
Inquest into the death of KB (September 2022)
Represented the MOJ in the inquest into the death of a man found unresponsive after having smoked synthetic cannabinoids in his cell. The inquest heard evidence from numerous prisoners who were seen on CCTV to be in the cell at the relevant time. The inquest explored issues regarding drug use in the prison, the location of and response to prominent nominals by the prison, use of challenge, support and intervention plans and locking off cells during association periods. Following submissions on the application of Galbraith the Coroner ruled that he would not leave unlawful killing as a potential conclusion.
Inquest into the death of AV (August 2022)
Represented the healthcare provider in a women’s prison. The deceased died after causing a small cut to her leg which caused a small incision to an artery. The point of cutting her leg to irreversible blood loss was said to be 15 minutes. The inquest explored questions relating to her history of self harm and her presentation in the day leading up to her death. The jury were unable to determine on the evidence whether she intended to take her own life.
Inquest into the death of MS (May 2022)
Represented the local authority. MS was morbidly obese with limited mobility living in a flat, being cared for by her ex-partner and friend. She was known to adult social care and frequently contacted emergency services. Her GP was contacted as she had skin wounds. District nurses attended and she was referred to the rapid response social care provider. She initially refused to go to hospital despite the seriousness of her condition. Her condition deteriorated and she was found to lack mental capacity. She was transferred to hospital where she died. The inquest explored the steps taken by healthcare professionals, adult social care staff and the police in response to her situation. The Coroner returned a conclusion of natural causes contributed to by self-neglect.
Inquest into the death of MB (December 2021)
Represented HMPPS in the inquest into the death of MB for whom no medical cause of death could be established on the balance of probabilities. MB had indicated suicidal thoughts prior to his death but there was nothing to suggest that he had taken his own life. The inquest explored whether drugs could have contributed to MB’s death. The jury recorded that it was an open conclusion with no evidence of suicide, unlawful killing or drug related. The Coroner made reports to prevent future deaths in respect of the communication between the prison and healthcare in the event of a medical emergency.
Inquest into the death of AC (November 2021)
Represented HMPPS in the inquest into the death of a man in custody who fell from some safety netting which he had climbed onto whilst under the influence of psychoactive substances. The inquest explored the adequacy of the safety netting and whether further barriers should have been in place. The inquest also explored the procedures in place for prisoners to raise concerns and complaints so they do not need to resort to protesting behaviour and the steps that are taken to reduce demand and supply of drugs in the prison.
Inquest into the death of SP (November 2021)
Represented the family in the inquest into the death of SP. This matter concerned the death of a woman who in the days before her death had made a complaint to the police that she had been assaulted by her partner. Kirsten assisted the family to ensure every avenue was explored by the coroner and the police to ensure that the principles in the case of R v D  EWCA Crim 1139 had been fully considered and relevant material obtained and explored.
Inquest into the death of DP (July 2021)
Represented the healthcare provider in the inquest into the death of a man in custody who was found hanged in his cell. The inquest explored DP’s history of anxiety, depression and poor sleep. It explored the medication he was prescribed, whether he should have seen a psychologist and whether an ACCT should have been opened for DP.
Inquest into the death of DHa (July 2021)
Represented HMPPS in the inquest into the death of a man in custody who suspended himself from his medicine cabinet. The jury concluded that they were unable to determine his state of mind at the time of his death due to his substance misuse and chronic leg and back pain.
Inquest into the death of DHo (June 2021)
Represented HMPPS in the inquest into the death of a man in custody. Numerous members of prison staff were subject of disciplinary procedures as a result of their failure to conduct roll checks and welfare checks. DHo died as a result of methadone toxicity with aspiration. The inquest explored the welfare checks which should have been conducted.
Also advised in respect of civil proceedings following the inquest.
Inquest into the death of DA (April 2021)
Represented HMPPS at an article 2 jury inquest. The inquest explored information sharing when a vulnerable prisoner is shared from one establishment to another. The inquest looked at the care of vulnerable prisoners including under ACCT (assessment, care, custody monitoring) processes. The inquest considered the emergency response and a decision not to commence CPR by those initially responding the emergency. The inquest heard evidence from an expert consultant intensive care physician and dealt with questions of the timing of brain stem death.
Inquest into the death of AT (February 2021)
Represented a local authority in an inquest into the death of AT who hanged himself in the community. AT had previous been a looked after child but was 18 at the time of his death. The inquest explored the personal circumstances of AT and the obligations of the local authority for a former looked after child.
Inquest into the death of DW (February 2021)
Represented the healthcare provider in an inquest into the death of a man in custody who hanged himself following consumption of synthetic cannabinoids. He was being investigated for murder at the time of his death, although had not been charged. The inquest explored the reception health screening assessments, whether DW should have been monitored on an ACCT and his state of mind. A preliminary issue dealt with what the jury could be told about the murder investigation and whether that may have been affecting DW’s state of mind.
Recent Regulatory Cases
HSE prosecution in which the company were find for a breach of section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 for failing to manage the risks associated with the use of vibrating tools. (January 2022)
HSE prosecution for breaches related to a fall from height (September 2021)
R v CW and JB – representing the second defendant in a case arising out of the design and manufacture of a cot, in which a baby died.
Kirsten is available to present bespoke in-house seminars on inquest or health and safety matters. She regularly presents a seminar on the application of Article 2 in inquest proceedings.