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Sheffield Lawyer Welcomes Coroner System Reforms

National Head Of Workplace Injuries Gives Support To The Coroners And Justice Act


A leading lawyer has today welcomed reforms to the Coroner system which will address weaknesses identified in two 2003 reports.

David Urpeth, Partner and National Head of Workplace Injuries at law firm Irwin Mitchell, and himself an Assistant Deputy Coroner, said: “I welcome the proposed changes to the present Coroner system and hopes that they will improve the experience of those coming into contact with the Coronial System.”

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 received Royal Assent on 12.11.09

The aims of the reforms are to:

  • Introduce National Leadership from a New Chief Coroner for England and Wales to ensure a greater consistency of approach between areas.
  • Improve the experience of those bereaved people coming into contact with the system, giving them rights of appeal against Coroner’s decisions and setting out the general standards of service they can expect to receive.
  • Reduce delays and improve the quality and outcomes of investigations and Inquests through the Introduction and Standards and Guidance and the publication of statistics and reports to prevent future deaths.
  • Introduce a system – for deaths not investigated by the Coroner – but enables independent scrutiny and confirmation of the medical cause of death in a way that is proportionate, consistent and transparent.

David said: “The proposed changes have been implemented to address the weaknesses in the previous Coroner System. These were identified in the 2003 reports of two major reviews which examined the Service.

“I welcome the relaxation of boundary restriction between Coroner areas as this will ensure that Inquests can be dealt with in an expeditious manner.

“The appointment of a Chief Coroner is aimed at ensuring minimum standards nationally whilst maintaining service delivery on a local level. 

“The Act provides the right of appeal to the Chief Coroner.  It has always been unfair that challenge could only be made through expensive applications to the High Court.  I hope the new appeal system will be efficient, affordable and expeditious.

“My biggest concern is that the Act failed to make the Coroner Service centrally based and this may lead to the continuance of a post code lottery in terms of resources and service. Whilst the creation, of the post of Chief Coroner goes some way to battle the issue of inconsistency, many critics feel this was a lost opportunity.

“However, I believe that the Act provides a solid foundation upon which a modern Coroners Service can be developed and I hope the rules and regulations which will implement the Act (implementation expected around 2012 / 2013) are well thought out and fully resourced to ensure the aims of the original Bill are met.”