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Reports and advice to the Lord Chancellor from the Chief Coroner

‘(1) The Chief Coroner must give the Lord Chancellor a report for each calendar year.

(2) The report must cover—

(a) matters that the Chief Coroner wishes to bring to the attention of the Lord Chancellor;

(b) matters that the Lord Chancellor has asked the Chief Coroner to cover in the report.

(3) The report must contain an assessment for the year of the consistency of standards between coroners areas.

(4) The report must also contain a summary for the year of—

(a) the number, nature and outcome of appeals under section 30(1), (3), (4) or (8);

(b) the matters reported under paragraph 6 of Schedule 4 and the responses given under sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph.

(5) A report for a year under this section must be given to the Lord Chancellor by 1 July in the following year.

(6) The Lord Chancellor must publish each report given under this section and must lay a copy of it before each House of Parliament.

(7) If requested to do so by the Lord Chancellor, the Chief Coroner must give advice to the Lord Chancellor about particular matters relating to the operation of the coroner system.’.— (Bridget Prentice.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

Bridget Prentice: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: new clause 1— Inquests into the death of a child (restrictions on publication in newspapers)—

‘(1) Section 39 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (power to prohibit publication of certain matters in newspapers) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (1) insert—

“(1A) If the proceedings are an inquest and relate to the death of a child, the court must direct that no newspaper report of the proceedings shall reveal the identity of the deceased child except in so far (if at all) as may be permitted by the direction of the court, unless the court considers that it would be contrary to the interests of justice to make such a direction.”.

(3) In subsection (3) at end add “and includes proceedings in a coroner’s court”.’.

New clause 2— Academic research—

‘It shall be the duty of a coroner to co-operate, so far as is reasonably practicable, with bona fide academic research into the operation of the coronial system and related matters.’.

New clause 3— ICD classification of cause of death—

‘Each verdict recorded by a coroner must include a classification of the cause of death according to one of the categories in the most recent version of the International Classification of Deaths published by the World Health Organization.’.

New clause 4— Clusters of deaths—

‘(1) The Chief Coroner must have regard to any evidence placed before him which indicates clusters of deaths in a given geographic area, location, or profession, and must ensure that an investigation is carried out in relation to the causes of the cluster of deaths by appropriate and suitably qualified researchers.

(2) The results of the investigation must be reported to the appropriate authority, which must publish details of the action which needs to be taken to prevent subsequent deaths.’.

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New clause 7— Presumption of death investigation and certification—

‘(1) The Chief Coroner must conduct an investigation into a person’s disappearance when it appears to him that there is prima facie evidence that—

(a) the person is thought to have died, or

(b) the person has not been known to be alive for a period of at least 7 years.

(2) If after an investigation under subsection (1) the Chief Coroner declares that the person has died, he shall then issue a certificate of presumed death, which shall be valid for all purposes as if it were a certificate of death.’.

New clause 28— Oversight by the chief coroner—

‘(1) The Chief Coroner may require senior coroners and medical examiners to provide him routinely with information he deems necessary in order for him to identify—

(a) trends in deaths reported to coroners and deaths not reported to coroners, and

(b) problems in the functioning, capacity of funding or the coronial system.

(2) A copy of reports submitted by senior coroners under paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 4 and a copy of responses to those reports must also be submitted to the Chief Coroner.

(3) The Chief Coroner may keep central records of all information provided to him under subsection (1) and reports under subsection (2).

(4) Where trends in deaths are identified under subsection (1), the Chief Coroner may order an investigation to ascertain the causes of deaths to be carried out by—

(a) a senior coroner, or

(b) appropriate and suitably qualified researchers.

(5) The results of an investigation carried out under subsection (4) must be reported to the Chief Coroner and to the appropriate authority.

(6) Where an authority receives a report under subsection (5), it must publish details of the action which needs to be taken to prevent subsequent deaths.

(7) The Chief Coroner must provide an annual report to the Lord Chancellor which may contain—

(a) details of problems identified under subsection (1),

(b) details of action taken under subsections (4) and (6),

(c) details of senior coroners’ reports and responses to them under paragraph 6(1) of Schedule 4, and

(d) matters of outstanding concern to the Chief Coroner in relation to this section.

(8) The Lord Chancellor must lay a copy of the Chief Coroner’s annual report before Parliament within 60 days of receiving the report.’.

New clause 32— Duty to conduct investigations—

‘(1) Where in respect of the circumstances of a death it seems to a senior coroner necessary in order to establish a matter of—

(a) criminal liability on the part of a named person (including liability in respect of a service offence); or

(b) civil liability,

he may request an investigation, whether jointly or separately, by

(i) the police;

(ii) the health and safety executive; or

(iii) any other investigating authority.

(2) When requesting an investigation under subsection (1), he may request such an investigation to be carried out as expeditiously as is reasonably practicable.

(3) Any investigating authority under subsection (1) must comply with a reasonable request from a senior coroner.

23 Mar 2009 : Column 135

(4) Where, following an investigation into the circumstances of a death, a court determines—

(a) criminal liability on the part of a named person (including liability in respect of a service offence); or

(b) civil liability,

then, notwithstanding section 10(2), that determination may be taken by the senior coroner to satisfy the requirement for a determination under section 5(1)(b).’.

New clause 41— Inquests in cases of multiple deaths—

‘(1) This section applies where it appears from a coroner’s investigation under this Part that more than one death has occurred from related causes.

(2) Where this section applies, a coroner may hold the inquests into the deaths as a single proceeding.

(3) Such a proceeding may deal with the deaths either jointly or sequentially.

(4) The coroner must consult the next of kin of each of the deceased persons, and obtain their consent in writing, before holding inquests as described in subsections (2) and (3).’.

Amendment 134, in clause 1, page 2, line 1, at end insert—

‘(2A) For the purposes of this section, the circumstances when the deceased should be considered to have been in “state detention” include—

(a) detention by a constable or other public authority pursuant to statutory or common law powers;

(b) detention or deprivation of liberty pursuant to the requirements of mental health legislation, including the Mental Health Act 1983 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005, as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007;

(c) the placement of a child in secure accommodation;

(d) detention pursuant to immigration and asylum legislation; and

(e) the detention of any person in custody or otherwise detained while he or she is being transported from one place to another.’.

Amendment 154, in clause 5, page 3, line 41, at end insert—

‘(1A) For the avoidance of doubt, the requirement in subsection (1)(b) shall include making the best possible estimate of the precise time and date of a person’s death.’.

Amendment 135, page 4, line 4, at end insert—

‘(2A) The senior coroner may determine that the purpose of any investigation shall include ascertaining the circumstances the deceased came by his or her death where—

(a) the senior coroner is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to determine that the continued or repeat occurrence of those circumstances would be prejudicial to the health and safety of members of the public, or any section of it; or

(b) the senior coroner is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to consider such circumstances in the public interest.’.

Amendment 136, in clause 10, page 5, line 40, at end insert—

‘(3A) Subsection (2) shall not affect the duty on the coroner to conduct an investigation which meets the requirements of section 5.’.

Government amendment 107.

Amendment 12, in schedule 4, page 131, line 27, leave out first ‘may’ and insert ‘must’.

Government amendment 151.

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Amendment 13, page 131, line 30, at end insert—

‘(3) The senior coroner may then request the relevant person to submit, within three months, a full update on any action he has taken, or alternatively detail the reasons for any failure to take action.

(4) The senior coroner must at the end of each year forward all reports and updates to the Chief Coroner, who must present them to Parliament.’.

Bridget Prentice: New clause 36 fulfils a commitment that I gave in Committee to consider how the provisions in respect of the prevention of future deaths might be improved. The new clause places on the chief coroner a statutory duty to make an annual report to the Lord Chancellor, and it details what should be included in it. Among other things, it will include a summary of the reports made by senior coroners.

Mr. Bellingham: As the Minister rightly pointed out, we are talking about a commitment that she gave in Committee. Will the chief coroner’s report include action to be taken on reports by individual coroners, so that, for example, if action is advised to improve highways, that action is taken to prevent future deaths?

Bridget Prentice: The answer to that question is yes.

I commend the new clause and the amendments to the House.

Mr. Bellingham: I am grateful to the Minister for listening to what we said in Committee. She said at the time that she was attracted to our amendments. The key point is that from time to time coroners throughout the country will make reports—

10 pm

Debate interrupted (Programme Order , this day).

The Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

Question agreed to.

New clause 36 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

The Speaker then put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

Clause 27

Chief Coroner and Deputy Chief Coroner

Amendments made: 103, page 14, leave out lines 21 to 26.

Amendment 104, page 14, line 27, leave out ‘further provision about’ and insert ‘provision about the appointment etc of’.

Amendment 105, page 14, line 31, leave out ‘this section or’.— (Bridget Prentice.)

Clause 30

Appeals to the Chief Coroner

Amendment made: 106, page 16, line 13, at end insert—

‘( ) a decision whether to exercise a power conferred by virtue of section 34(3)(a) or (4) to exclude persons from all or part of an inquest;’.— (Bridget Prentice.)

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Clause 33

Coroners regulations

Amendment made: 107, page 18, line 17, at end insert—

‘( ) provision requiring a summary of specified information given to the Chief Coroner by virtue of paragraph (e) to be included in reports under section [Reports and advice to the Lord Chancellor from the Chief Coroner];’.— (Bridget Prentice.)

Clause 34

Coroners rules

Amendment made: 108, page 19, line 22, leave out from ‘requiring’ to end of line 23 and insert

‘permission to be given for the making of an appeal to the Court of Appeal under any provision of this Part’.— (Bridget Prentice.)

Schedule 4

powers of senior coroners

Amendment made: 151, page 131, line 30, at end insert—

‘(3) A copy of a report under this paragraph, and of the response to it, must be sent to the Chief Coroner.’.— (Bridget Prentice.)

Schedule 7

Chief Coroner and Deputy Chief Coroners

Amendments made: 114, page 136, leave out lines 16 to 25 and insert—

‘Appointment of Chief Coroner

1 (1) The Lord Chief Justice may appoint a person as the Chief Coroner.

(2) To be eligible for appointment as the Chief Coroner a person must be—

(a) a judge of the High Court or a Circuit judge, and

(b) under the age of 70.

(3) The Lord Chief Justice must consult the Lord Chancellor before making an appointment under this paragraph.

(4) The appointment of a person as the Chief Coroner is to be for a term decided by the Lord Chief Justice after consulting the Lord Chancellor.

The term must be one that expires before the person’s 70th birthday.

(5) In this paragraph “appointment” includes re-appointment.

Appointment of Deputy Chief Coroners

1A (1) The Lord Chief Justice may secure the appointment as Deputy Chief Coroners of however many persons the Lord Chief Justice thinks appropriate.

(2) To be eligible for appointment as a Deputy Chief Coroner a person must be—

(a) a judge of the High Court, a Circuit judge or a senior coroner, and

(b) under the age of 70.

(3) The Lord Chief Justice must consult the Lord Chancellor as to—

(a) the appropriate number of persons to be appointed as Deputy Chief Coroners;

(b) how many of them are to be persons eligible for appointment by virtue of being judges and how many are to be persons eligible for appointment by virtue of being senior coroners.

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