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July 23, 2020

Reforms to the Coroner Service were introduced by the Coroners & Justice Act 2009. In 2015 the Ministry of Justice reviewed the Act’s effectiveness. That review has never been published. And so, at the start of July 2020, the Justice Select Committee announced an inquiry into the Coroner Service. The Chair of the Committee, Sir Bob Neill MP said the following:

“We are concerned about the adequacy of the Coroner Service across England and Wales. The Chief Coroner has said that many coroner areas have been neglected for years in the provision of resources. The 2009 Coroners and Justice Act was supposed to put the needs of bereaved people at the heart of the Coroner Service; for coroner services to be locally delivered within a framework of national standards; and to enable a more efficient system of investigations and inquests. The Ministry of Justice has not published its review of the Coroner Service and we are concerned that not enough progress has been made.

The Justice Committee last looked at this issue in 2009. Our new inquiry seeks to identify the extent of continuing problems with the Coroner Service and to recommend what can be done to improve the situation”.

The Committee invites written evidence submissions on some or all of the following points via the Coroner Service inquiry page by Wednesday 2 September, 2020:

  1. The extent of unevenness of coroner services, including local failures, and the case for a National Coroners Service
  2. The Coroner Service’s capacity to deal properly with multiple deaths in public disasters
  3. Ways to strengthen the Coroners’ role in the prevention of avoidable future deaths
  4. How the Coroner Service has dealt with COVID 19
  5. Progress with training and guidance for coroners
  6. Improvements in services for the bereaved
  7. Fairness in the Coroners system

Points 1, 2, 5 and 7 above, may be of particular interest to legal practitioners and now is the chance to have some input.

Fiona Elder

Chief Coroner Guidance No. 39 was issued on the 29 June 2020, entitled “Recovery from the Covid-19 Pandemic”.