Bereaved familes will be put at the heart of the coroner system, Justice Minister Simon Hughes said today as he launched a new guide for people who have to become involved with inquests.
The new ‘Guide to Coroner Services’ explains simply to bereaved people how the inquest process works, what they should expect to experience, what standards of service they should receive from those involved, how to find help and what to do if they were not satisfied by the service.
The guide is the latest stage of Government’s drive to modernise the coroner system and make sure that bereaved families can receive the same standards of service from all 96 coroners in England and Wales, bringing an end to past inconsistencies. It follows the introduction last year of new national standards and the appointment of the first ever Chief Coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC, to oversee the new system and drive improvement.
Launching the guide Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:
I want people to know that coroners’ courts needn’t be scary places, they can be open and welcoming, and that is why we are making absolutely sure that the needs of bereaved >families are put first and foremost.
We have already introduced changes to the law so people can be assured inquests are being conducted quickly and consistently.
Now we have set out in this new guide exactly what people who have lost loved ones should expect at an inquest and where they can go for support and advice.
The guide follows the new coroner rules implemented last year, which mean that coroners will:
- 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.
- 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.
The impact of implementation is already set to be reviewed 18 months after the coroner provisions came into effect, in July 2013.