The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Kenneth Clarke QC) has recently announced details of the Government’s plan to transfer certain functions of the Chief Coroner as set out in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 following on from the Government’s decision not to implement the provisions of that act in so far as they relate to the functions of a Chief Coroner. In essence the functions are to be divided between the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice. In addition proposals have been made for a ministerial board to oversee the non-judicial aspects of the coroners’ service. Of particular interest are the following:
- the function of collation of reports and the keeping of a register of any inquest investigations which are not completed within one year is to transfer to the Lord Chancellor;
- reports from coroners on actions to prevent other deaths to be submitted to the Lord Chancellor;
- the Lord Chief Justice will make regulations on training; and
- Lord Chancellor to issue guidance on the way in which the coroner system is to operate in respect of interested persons following consultation with the Lord Chief Justice.
As the office of Chief Coroner will not be filled there will be no one responsible for leadership, culture or behaviour of coroners and the planned appeals system will not be implemented. There is a proposal that a ministerial board be established to focus on matters of policy, standards of service and other administrative aspects of the delivery of the coroner service and complaints about a coroner’s personal conduct and all complaints about the administration of the coroner service or the conduct of the coroner’s officers should be raised with the ministerial board unless these are of a judicial nature. The board will also provide advice to the Lord Chancellor on his statutory duties and on the setting of priorities.