The Government has approved a proposal from the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald, to draft a bill to amend the existing legislation on the coroner service as a matter of priority. The principal legislation governing the coroner service is the Coroners Act 1962.

The proposed Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2017 (the “Bill”) would provide for mandatory reporting, post-mortem examination and inquests in all cases of maternal deaths. The Bill would also improve the provisions on mandatory reporting of certain peri-natal and infant deaths and introduce an offence of not reporting a mandatory reportable death to the coroner.

The Bill would propose to extend an existing scheme of legal aid for a deceased person’s family members at inquests in cases of maternal death. It would also support transparent provision of information by health and other authorities to bereaved families.

Other important provisions to be included in the Bill are extensions to the coroner’s powers to; summon witnesses, direct witnesses to produce documents or answer questions, enter and inspect premises and impose appropriate penalties for witnesses who do not cooperate. The Bill would also include a new power for the coroner to request directions from the High Court on a point of law arising from an inquest.

Some of the provisions of the Bill were included in the Coroners Bill 2007 and the Coroners Bill 2015 (a private members bill), none of which have been enacted to date.

We will provide further updates as they arise. The Government’s press release on the proposed bill can be found here.