Coroners and Justice Bill - Justice Committee Contents


Draft Charter for bereaved people who come into contact with a reformed coroner system (Ministry of Justice, 14 January 2009)

35.  The objectives of the coroner system in relation to bereaved people, as set out in the draft Charter[27], are to:

  • help bereaved people understand the cause of the death of the person who has died;
  • inform bereaved people about the role, powers and procedures of the coroner and their own rights and responsibilities in the event of a coroner's investigation;
  • take account, where possible, of individual, family, and community wishes, feelings and expectations, including family and community preferences, traditions and religious requirements relating to mourning and to funerals, and respect for individual and family privacy;
  • keep bereaved people informed and consulted in a sensitive manner during the investigation process and to help them to find further help when necessary;
  • explain, on request, why the coroner intends to take no further action in a particular case; and
  • provide information about how bereaved people may appeal against, or complain about, a coroner's decisions and respond to such appeals and complaints as specified by the Chief Coroner.

Throughout the Charter, coroners are placed under a responsibility to inform the families of relevant decisions and applicable procedures, explain such decisions and procedures and provide information (such as reports of post-mortems) in a timely fashion. The responsibilities of the family of the deceased are also set out.

There appear to be three levels in the formal relationship between bereaved people and the reformed coroner system, in relation to different procedures:

The family's consent is required for:

  • the release of more than outline details of specific current cases to the media
  • the release of relevant photographs to the media in any circumstances
  • retention of the body by the coroner once not required for the coroner's purposes (except in "exceptional" circumstances)

The family's views must be taken into account (formally):

  • on the timing of the inquest

The family has a right of appeal (to the Chief Coroner) against a decision:

  • not to conduct a post-mortem
  • to conduct a second post-mortem of the same type as one previously commissioned
  • on whether to commence, or resume, a coroner's investigation
  • to discontinue an investigation before an inquest
  • on whether an inquest will be held with a jury
  • in relation to the decision given at the end of an inquest
  • to retain the body in exceptional circumstances for more than 30 days

In addition provision is made for, or reference made to: the availability of information on bereavement support services; the setting and monitoring of, and reporting on, performance against national standards; the making of complaints; and the giving of other forms of feedback.

27   Ministry of Justice, Draft Charter for bereaved people who come into contact with a reformed coroner system, January 2009 ( Back

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Prepared 23 January 2009