Sarcastic Vic coroner not biased: judge

A Victorian coroner will not be removed from an inquest into a fatal police shooting after a judge found her "sarcastic and flippant comments" were not an indication of bias.

Four Special Operations Group officers accused Coroner Jane Hendtlass of being biased against them and sought to have her disqualified from an inquest into their role in the fatal shooting of Wayne Joannou in 2005.

They argued she referred the incident to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to destermine whether criminal charges should be laid against them without having heard their evidence.

The DPP subsequently found no grounds for charges.

The Victorian Supreme Court heard there was no dispute that Mr Joannou had a lengthy and violent criminal history involving firearms and was a suspect in the death of another man.

There was also no dispute that each of the officers had shot at him.

Justice Emilious Kyrou today dismissed the officers' application.

He said although the coroner had behaved inappropriately by using informal and familiar language - referring to the officers as "guys", and addressing the officers directly - her "over-familiar and over-zealous approach" was not an indication she lacked impartiality.

"The coroner made several sarcastic and flippant comments which were distracting and unhelpful," Justice Kyrou said.

"(This) might have caused a fair-minded lay observer to wonder whether the coroner's conduct was unusual, but not to apprehend that the coroner might have prejudged any issue that she was required to decide."

The officers' barrister, Ian Freckelton SC, said Dr Hendtlass did not hear their evidence because she did not want to grant the officers certificates to protect them from self-incrimination.

"This is a coroner with a pretty firm view that murder has been committed and wants to help its prosecution," he said.

Justice Kyrou said the coroner's action was not motivated by suspicion but by a desire to ensure the giving of evidence would not prejudice a subsequent criminal trial.

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