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Coroner Reforms

Volume 559: debated on Friday 1 March 2013

The Government have today published a consultation on our proposed coroner reforms to be made under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

Our proposals are key to enabling us to meet our aims of putting the needs of bereaved people at the heart of the coroner system; retaining local coroner services but within a new national framework of standards and with new national leadership; and enabling a more efficient system of investigations and inquests.

We began the process of reform with the appointment of the first Chief Coroner of England and Wales, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, in May 2012. The next step is to implement the Chief Coroner’s powers under the 2009 Act, along with a number of other important reforms to the coroner system.

Our consultation therefore seeks views on the following proposals:

New “Coroners (Investigations) Regulations”—setting out the investigation process (excluding the inquest part of proceedings) including new measures intended to tackle delays within the coroner system.

New “Coroners (Inquests) Rules”—governing the practice at inquests, including new provisions about disclosure of information to bereaved relatives and other interested persons, allowing them to play a more active role in the process.

New “Coroners Allowances, Fees and Expenses Regulations”—setting out the fees and allowances that coroners can pay or charge, largely replicating current provisions.

A new “Guide to Coroner Services”—updating and combining the current “Guide to Coroners and Inquests” and “Charter for Coroner Services”.

New coroner areas—mapping out the new coroner area framework and commencing the process of amalgamating areas to deliver a more consistent, efficient and professional coroner system.

In developing these proposals. Ministry of Justice officials have worked closely with colleagues in the Department of Health on the death certification reforms which also flow from part 1 of the 2009 Act and on which the Department of Health will be consulting separately.

The coroner reforms consultation will run until 12 April 2013. A response paper will be published online and the Government intend to implement the reforms in summer 2013.

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 http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/consultations.htm.