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Coroners

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what estimate she has made of the number of coroners’ officers employed by (a) police forces, (b) local authorities and (c) coroners; and what effect she expects the provisions of the draft Coroners Reform Bill to have on the number of officers employed by each. (99643)

[holding answer 6 November 2006]: There are approximately 430 coroners’ officers in England and Wales. Around 90 per cent. are employed by police forces with the remaining 10 per cent. employed by local authorities. I am not aware of any officers employed directly by the coroner, although some coroners directly employ other support staff. The draft Bill should not directly impact on the number of coroners’ officers. Providing the coroner service is currently being resourced locally, there should be no requirement arising from the draft Bill to increase the number of coroners’ officers in a particular area.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the costs and benefits of establishing a national service of coroners’ officers. (99644)

[holding answer 6 November 2006]: The draft Coroner Bill regulatory impact assessment (RIA) published in June this year assessed the costs and benefits of a unified national coroner service consisting of coroners, coroners’ officers and other support staff. The RIA estimated the total cost of the unified national service as requiring an additional £17 million per year in annual costs and £31 million in set-up costs. Having assessed the costs and benefits carefully, the Government take the view that the benefits of a unified national coroner service do not justify the costs, and the proposals outlined in the current draft Bill provide better value for money.

To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what the aims and objectives are of the Coroners Service. (100065)

Coroners are independent judicial officers whose duties are to hold inquests and order post mortem examinations in accordance with the requirements of the Coroners Act 1988 and the Coroners Rules 1984. In carrying out these duties coroners meet the public interest by determining the facts of deaths which are reported to them. Coroners also hold treasure inquests in accordance with the requirements of the Treasure Act 1996.