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Armed Forces: Coroners' Inquest

Volume 704: debated on Wednesday 22 October 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the reports of new service inquiry panels will be made available to the families of any deceased Armed Forces personnel and any coroner's inquest into their death. [HL5613]

Where a service inquiry is held into the circumstances surrounding a death, the Ministry of Defence recognises that the bereaved families of service personnel have an interest in its conclusions. Ministry of Defence policy will continue to be to offer a copy of the inquiry report to the next of kin. Where there is an inquest, the coroner is normally passed a copy of the full report in confidence to assist him in the preparation of his own inquiry.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether arrangements are in place for the new service inquiry panels to produce reports quicker than the single-service boards of inquiry; and, if so, what are the anticipated timescales. [HL5614]

The decision to convene a service inquiry will normally be made within five days of either the incident itself or, where applicable, receipt of the reports of other investigative agencies from which it can be determined if anything of consequence may be learned by convening a service inquiry. Service inquiries into air occurrences are convened within 48 hours of the incident. Once a service inquiry has been convened we aim to make the report available within 40 weeks. However, the length of time an inquiry takes is determined partly by the nature of the incident under investigation and partly by the complexity of the case. Service inquiries will include those into covert operations, technical investigations into aircraft crashes, and incidents in hostile environments including those at sea. The need to adjourn an inquiry pending a police investigation and difficulties securing witnesses while on operations or travelling overseas could also of course cause delay.