Chief Coroner

Chief Coroner: Implementation of relevant parts of Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

July 2013 saw the relevant parts of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 come into force. New coroner Rules and Regulations were introduced by the Ministry of Justice. These provide a new statutory framework for coroner investigations and inquests and give a range of statutory powers to the Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, to provide leadership to coroners in England and Wales.

The Chief Coroner states:

‘I welcome the coroner reforms which come into force today. They will benefit bereaved families across England and Wales who will be the focus of a more efficient, effective and modern coroner service.’

‘Inquests will be heard earlier, usually within six months. Families will receive information earlier and will have greater access to documents and evidence. Bodies will be released earlier for burial or cremation. Fewer inquests will be needed as a result of early investigation. And there will be a special emphasis upon coroners reporting to prevent future deaths.’

‘I will monitor and investigate delays, provide coroners and their officers with compulsory training, give guidance to coroners on practice and the law, overhaul the appointments process, find alternatives to invasive post-mortem examinations, and create a coroner cadre for service deaths abroad.’

Notes on the Coroners and Justice Act.

1. The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 is available at http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2009/25/contents

2. The Ministry of Justice consultation paper Implementing the coroner reforms in Part 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, sought views on a proposed new national framework of standards for coroner investigations and inquests under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 closed on 12 April 2013. The consultation and response paper are available athttps://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/coroner-reforms

3. Some factual notes on the inquest process are set out below.

* An inquest is a fact-finding inquiry into a violent or unnatural death, a death of unknown cause, or a death which has occurred in prison or state detention, to establish who has died, and how, when and where the death occurred.

* The inquest is conducted by a coroner, and s/he hears evidence relating to the body and the circumstances of the death of a deceased person.

* The inquest is a form of public inquiry to determine the truth. It is not a trial so there are no formal parties.

* The inquest verdict cannot be framed in such a way as to appear to determine matters of criminal liability on the part of a named person or civil liability.

More on the Chief Coroner and the Coroners Service.