Shukri Abdi: High Court dismisses family bid to overturn coroner’s verdict over tragic death


A request for a judicial review into a coroner’s conclusion that the drowning of a 12-year-old Somali refugee was accidental has been dismissed by a High Court judge. Shukri Abdi, 12, died after getting into difficulties in the river in Bury during a heatwave in June 2019.

Following an inquest held in 2020, Coroner Joanne Kearsley ruled that on the ‘balance of probabilities’ Shukri died as a result of an accidental death. Last month her family de ella went to the High Court in Manchester to challenge her conclusion de ella, claiming it was a ‘flawed’ verdict.

Now a senior High Court judge has dismissed the application for a judicial review, concluding: “I have been unable to find any arguable ground for judicial review having any realistic prospect of success.”

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The Abdi family argued the coroner only allowed evidence from the day of the tragedy. They said she ruled out evidence about alleged bullying Shukri had suffered previously by the children who were with her when she went into the water.

At the time of her death Shukri was with four other children, who for legal reasons can only be referred to as Child One, Two, Three and Four. The 2020 inquest heard how Child One encouraged Shukri to go into the water despite knowing she couldn’t swim.

Child One told Shukri she would look after her and would teach her to swim. Coroner Joanne Kearsley ruled that meant Child One had a duty of care to Shukri and she breached that duty because she should have been able to foresee the risk of drowning.

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But that breach, Ms Kearsley said, wasn’t serious enough to warrant a conclusion of gross negligence manslaughter.

Shukri Abdi died after getting into difficulties in the River Irwell in Bury in June 2019

Ms Kearsley said: “Child One was naïve, she was foolish, she thought she could teach Shukri to swim and this ill-considered act went badly wrong. She did not force Shukri into the water, she did not undertake any actions with the explicit intention of causing her harm. She was in unfamiliar water the dangers of which I am satisfied were not fully appreciated. At its highest this was a serious error of judgment. I am sure the ramification of the 27th June 2019 will be felt by many for a long time.”

Considering the application for a judicial review, Mr Justice Fordham concluded ‘it is not arguable with any realistic prospect of success’ that the law and fairness required the coroner to investigate the claims said to have been made by three children concerning alleged ‘planning’ or ‘pushing’

Shukri’s mother had said in a statement for the inquest that: “Shukri was subjected to a daily campaign of bullying by (Child Two) and her friends.”

The judge pointed out that Shukri’s mother had conceded that she did not know Child One and as far as she was aware there were no issues between Child One and her daughter.

Mr Justice Fordham, in his ruling, said: “I have been unable to find in this case any arguable ground for judicial review having a realistic prospect of success. I have been shown no aspect of the process, reasoning or conclusions which, in my judgment – ​​whether individually or cumulatively with other features of the case – entails any arguable vitiating flaw in public law terms.”

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Senior north Manchester coroner Joanne Kearsley

He concluded: “Since – for the reasons I have given – I have been unable to find any arguable ground for judicial review having any realistic prospect of success, I refuse the renewed application for permission for judicial review.”

At the hearing at the Civil Justice Center last month, Sophie Cartwright QC, representing Senior North Manchester Coroner Ms Kearsley, said her client had not ‘closed her mind’ to allegations of bullying. She insisted it was covered in the evidence presented to the inquest of the four children.

And, she said the coroner had investigated suggestions that the incident had been planned. Rejecting a claim that more children should have been called to give evidence, Ms Cartwright said the coroner had invited submissions at the inquest about which witnesses should be called and pointed out Ms Kearsley called more witnesses than were requested by the family.

The QC said her client had not been seeking to limit the scope of the inquiry, had been ‘keeping an open mind’ and ‘kept under review’ the actions of Child One.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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