Significant changes in the Coronial system came into force on 25 July 2013.
The new system will apply to all existing inquests not completed by 25 July 2013. Many core aspects of inquests remain the same, but there are several key areas of change.
With regard to case management, coroners will now be expected to conclude inquests within 6 months and where cases have not been concluded within 12 months the Chief Coroner must be notified.
In relation to disclosure under the new regime, the Coroner must provide copies of documents as soon as reasonably practicable, subject to a list of restrictions including where the request is unreasonable or the Coroner considers the document irrelevant to the investigation. Interested people must still notify the court of their intention to participate and seek disclosure although as regards the deceased’s family the Court should still endeavour to contact them.
In respect of evidence, written evidence can be admitted if it is not possible for a person to attend within a reasonable time and there is a ‘good and sufficient reason’ why the person should not or will not attend or the evidence is unlikely to be disputed. Live evidence given by way of special measures, from behind a screen or via video link will now be considered.
Coroners will no longer be required to sit with a jury where the death is due to natural causes.
The new language of the coronial system will no longer refer to verdicts but reach conclusions, determinations and findings.
Finally, the Coroner will now have a duty rather than a power to make a report and recipients of such reports must now provide a timetable in respect of any proposed action.
If you think you may need legal advice for an inquest it is vital you seek specialist advice. Our team at Stephensons has the requisite expertise in this area.
By Priscilla Addo-Quaye, inquests solicitor