Reform of the coroner is back on the agenda and we’re still none the wiser.

The Chief Coroner was due to be abolished as part of the Public Bodies Bill. The Government was clear that he could not be afforded. But a recent amendment passed in the Lords retained the appointment of the office, for now. Ministers are clear there is no the cash for such an appointment and so discussions have begun about re-introducing the abolition of the office of Chief Coroner in the House of Commons.  

The Ministry of Justice is committed to the creation of a consumer orientated coronial service, so step forward the National Charter. The charter has been through informal consultation with interested parties and public consultation is due to take place later in the Spring. It will set out minimum standards to be expected of the coronial service and will provide methods of redress should these standards not be met. This is designed to lead to more timely inquests and a greater engagement of the public with the process, however it is clear from the article above that case law may scupper that aim.

The Department of Health is taking forward reform of death certification, expected in April 2012. The Cremation Regulations 2008 will be updated so all deaths not subject to coronial investigation will be scrutinised by medical examiners prior to registration. The medical examiner will then authorise disposal for every case they deal with. The role of the medical referee will be removed and the paperwork reduced. The Department of Health is likely to consult on secondary legislation to these reforms in April 2011, and will include consideration of the necessary paperwork.