Coroners are currently expected to have arrangements in place to ensure a 24 hour, seven day a week service to deal with deaths reported to them, including liaison with bereaved relatives. To reflect this good practice, a requirement to contact the next-of-kin within 24 hours of a death being reported is included in the charter for bereaved people which accompanies the draft Bill on coroner reform. The charter is an “illustrative draft” and its content, including specific targets, will be the subject of further consultation.
In England and Wales there are currently 32 full-time coroners, 86 part-time coroners and around 430 coroners’ officers.
The analysis of the impact on resources of the proposed legislation is set out in the Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) that was published alongside the draft Bill.
As the RIA shows, we have concluded that the reform proposals will not materially increase the caseload of the service. Therefore, providing the coroner service is currently being resourced adequately by the relevant local authorities. There should be no requirement to increase the overall hours provided by coroners or coroners’ officers in a particular area.
As we further develop the detail of our proposals, we will be carrying out analysis on the options for new coroner areas, and in particular whether changes in geography affect this position significantly.
The charter included with the draft Bill is an “illustrative draft” and as such its content, including specific targets, will be the subject of further consultation. However, when finalised, the charter is intended to represent a level of service that each area should deliver within current staff numbers, provided that local authorities are, at that time, resourcing the service adequately.
Coroners are not employees, but independent judicial officers, appointed by local authorities who also pay their salaries. In most cases coroners’ officers are employed by the relevant police force, although a minority are employed by the relevant local authority.