The needs of bereaved families will be put at the heart of a reformed coroner system by a new national code, according to Justice Minister Helen Grant.
The new legal framework will ensure all 96 coroners in England and Wales will work to the same standards, ending the past inconsistencies which led to criticisms of a postcode lottery – with bereaved people in some areas facing long waits for inquests.
Coroner services will now be overseen by the first Chief Coroner of England and Wales, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, and will be locally delivered within national standards designed to lead to a more efficient system of investigations and inquests.
The new laws came into force on 25th July and mean that coroners will:
- Be able to speed up the release of bodies after post mortem and will be required to notify the deceased’s next of kin or personal representative if the body cannot be released within 28 days.
- Permit less invasive post-mortem examinations.
- Be required to complete inquests within six months of the date on which they are made aware of the death, unless there are good reasons not to.
- Be required to notify those who are bereaved within a week of setting the date for the inquest.
- Have to report any cases that last more than a year to the Chief Coroner, and give reasons for any delays.
- Provide greater access to documents and evidence, such as post-mortem reports, before the inquest takes place, to enable bereaved families to prepare for the hearing.
- Be subject to new training requirements.
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