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Coroner services to receive major overhaul

04 Jul 2013

Justice Minister Helen Grant has announced that a new national code will put the needs of bereaved families at the heart of a reformed coroner system.

Under the new legal framework, all 96 coroners in England and Wales will work to the same standards bringing to an end ending the postcode lottery which has in the past led to inconsistencies with bereaved people in some areas facing long waits for inquests.

The framework provides for coroner services to be overseen by the first Chief Coroner of England and Wales, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC. They will be locally delivered within national standards designed to lead to a more efficient system of investigations and inquests.

The new laws, which come into force on 25 July, mean that coroners will:

  • Be able to speed up the release of bodies after post mortem and will be required to notify the deceased’s next of kin or personal representative if the body cannot be released within 28 days.
  • Permit less invasive post-mortem examinations.
  • Be required to complete inquests within six months of the date on which they are made aware of the death, unless there are good reasons not to.
  • Be required to notify those who are bereaved within a week of setting the date for the inquest.
  • Have to report any cases that last more than a year to the Chief Coroner, and give reasons for any delays.
  • Provide greater access to documents and evidence, such as post-mortem reports, before the inquest takes place, to enable bereaved families to prepare for the hearing.
  • Be subject to new training requirements.

Justice Minister Helen Grant said:

‘We are making absolutely sure that the needs of bereaved people are put first and foremost – and that this is done consistently around the country.

‘I want to see all coroners delivering the same, efficient service across the board, and we have put these changes in law so people can be assured inquests are being conducted quickly, with adequate care and the right support available for those who lose loved ones.’

Today’s announcement follows a consultation, following which we carefully considered the responses and refined our proposals. Our response sets out how we are overhauling the coroner system.

The impact of implementation will be reviewed 18 months after the coroner reform provisions come into effect.

If you would like more information regarding the issues raised in this article, you may find our Public Inquiries & Inquests page helpful. Alternatively, you can contact us directly to speak to us about any concerns you may have.

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