The Government has announced further proposals as part of a new consultation setting out the next stage in its overhaul of the coroner system in England and Wales. The consultation follows new guidance issued last year to those who have suffered a bereavement, which set out the standards they can expect to receive from local coroner services.

The consultation paper sets the primary aims of the reforms as: (a) putting the needs of bereaved people at the heart of the coroner system; (b) enabling coroner services to continue to be delivered locally, while being conducted within a new national framework of standards and under national leadership; and (c) providing for a more efficient system of investigations and inquests.

Supporting bereaved families will thus be at the centre of the new coroner system. Justice Minister Helen Grant stated, ‘We want a system that puts the needs of bereaved people first and foremost.’ She also called for the end of ‘the postcode lottery that has plagued the coroner system for too long.’Under the new plans announced on 1st March 2013 coroners will:

  • Be subjected to more stringent time limits for completing an inquest;——Have to report any cases lasting over a year to the Chief Coroner;
  • Have a requirement to release bodies for funerals within a maximum of 30 days; 
  • Provide greater access to materials prior to the inquest, such as post-mortem reports;
  • Have new technologies available to them so that vulnerable witnesses can give evidence via video link; and
  • Be subject to mandatory training requirements.

The time limit which organisations have to respond to a coroner report on preventing future deaths, known as ‘Rule 43 Reports’, is also halved under the reforms from 56 to 28 days.

The consultation on implementing the coroner reforms in Part 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 will remain open until 12th April 2013.

To view the consultation paper, please go to consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/coroner-reforms