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Draft Charter for the Coroner Service for Consultation

Volume 528: debated on Thursday 19 May 2011

The Government are today publishing a draft charter for the coroner service for public consultation. This is part of the Government’s work to drive improvement in the current coroner service to address current inconsistencies and inefficiencies in the delivery of services across England and Wales.

The draft charter for the coroner service sets out the minimum standards expected from coroners. The charter will apply to all bereaved people, witnesses and other interested persons who come into contact with the coroner service.

The charter will for the first time provide a national framework that sets out the standards of service that bereaved family members, witnesses and other properly interested persons in a coroner’s investigation can expect to receive from the coroner service in England and Wales. It will ensure that all coroner offices in England and Wales know the standards they should already be meeting, and that bereaved people and other service users know their rights and responsibilities throughout the investigation process. The charter will also clarify what options are available if someone wishes to make a complaint against the level of service received or against a coroner. I must stress that we are not imposing any new obligations on coroners. We are merely setting out for the first time, in an accessible and transparent format, what the current standards are.

I propose to publish the draft charter alongside the Ministry of Justice’s current “Guide to Coroners and Inquests”, which sets out the role of a coroner and the investigation process. This is so that people can access information about the process, and the standards that should be met, in one booklet. No major changes have been proposed to the guide and therefore I am not consulting on the guide itself. The guide and the charter will be updated as and when changes to the coroner system are introduced.

This publication marks the latest in a number of steps that the Government plan to undertake to bring about much-needed improvements to the coroner system. The charter will be followed by a review of coroners’ rules and regulations, development of guidance for coroners and their officers and implementation of key provisions in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

In taking this work forward I am also considering how best we achieve, maintain and monitor those changes in the absence of a chief coroner. I continue to have positive discussions with Parliamentarians, the judiciary and representatives from civil society groups about the transfer functions of the chief coroner, including the leadership role, and we will be making a statement setting out the Government’s plans in more detail in the near future.

Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses, in the Vote Office and in the Printed Paper Office. The document is also available online, at: htm. The consultation on the draft charter will run until 5 September 2011. A response paper and the final version of the charter will be published in December 2011.