26 Jun 2008 12:30 PM
Coroner reform: stronger powers give families more involvement

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE News Release (070/08) issued by The Government News Network on 26 June 2008

New coroners' powers to help prevent avoidable deaths were announced today by Justice Minister Bridget Prentice in response to views expressed by bereaved families.

From 17 July, a new statutory duty will be placed on organisations to respond to coroners' reports on action that should be taken to prevent future deaths. Reports will then be shared with bereaved families, so that they are aware of the action being taken.

Announcing the changes, Bridget Prentice said:

"Families often express their wish that something positive might come out of a coroner's inquiry and hope that relevant agencies will take preventative action so that the death of their relative is not in vain. Under the new rules we're introducing, organisations will no longer be able to ignore coroners' reports sent to them and will be required to respond. Family members will be provided with copies of both the reports and responses giving them more involvement and a chance to see what preventative action may be taken."

The new rules, which are being introduced ahead of the Coroners and Death Certification Bill due to be published in the next parliamentary session, are:

* A new statutory duty will be placed on organisations receiving reports from coroners to respond within 56 days.

* Coroners must share reports and responses with those, including bereaved families, to whom they have assigned "interested persons" status.

* Reports and responses will be centrally collated for the first time so that any trends can be identified, monitored and lessons learned can be shared widely.

Another change to coroners' rules announced today will help agencies involved in reviewing the reasons for a child's death to work better together.

Coroners will be required to notify Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) of the death of any child reported to them and allow them to supply information (such as reports from post-mortem examinations and documents given in evidence at an inquest) to LSCBs. This will enable LSCBs to meet their statutory obligations, including their responsibility to conduct child death reviews.

Notes to editors

1. The proposed changes will amend rule 43 of the Coroners Rules 1984, and add a new rule 57A.

2. The Coroners (Amendment) Rules 2008 will be laid in Parliament on 26 June, and will come into effect on 17 July. An explanatory memorandum will accompany the laying of the Rules.

3. The new rule regarding the supply of information to LSCBs has been developed in Partnership with the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

News Release