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(a) a reference to a senior coroner is to be read as a reference to the Coroner for Treasure;
(b) the reference in section 8(3) to the death of the deceased is to be read as a reference to the matters mentioned in section (Investigations concerning treasure)(5).
Where the Coroner for Treasure has conducted an investigation under section (Investigations concerning treasure), a determination as to the question mentioned in subsection (5)(a) of that section, and (where applicable) the questions mentioned in subsection (5)(b) of that section, must be made
(a) by the Coroner for Treasure after considering the evidence (where an inquest is not held),
(b) by the Coroner for Treasure after hearing the evidence (where an inquest is held without a jury), or
(c) by the jury after hearing the evidence (where an inquest is held with a jury).
(a) an object that would vest in the Crown under the Treasure Act 1996 (c. 24) if the object was in fact treasure and there were no prior interests or rights, or
(b) an object that would belong to the Crown under the law relating to treasure trove if the object was in fact treasure trove,
the Secretary of State may give notice to the Coroner for Treasure disclaiming, on behalf of the Crown, any title that the Crown may have to the object.
(a) an object that would vest in the franchisee under the Treasure Act 1996 (c. 24) if the object was in fact treasure and there were no prior interests or rights, or
(b) an object that would belong to the franchisee under the law relating to treasure trove if the object was in fact treasure trove,
the franchisee may give notice to the Coroner for Treasure disclaiming any title that the franchisee may have to the object.
(a) the object is to be treated as not vesting in or belonging to the Crown, or (as the case may be) the franchisee, under the Treasure Act 1996 (c. 24), or the law relating to treasure trove;
(b) the Coroner for Treasure may not conduct an investigation concerning the object under section (Investigations concerning treasure) or, if an investigation has already begun, may not continue with it;
(c) without prejudice to the interests or rights of others, the object may be delivered to a person in accordance with a code of practice published under section 11 of the Treasure Act 1996 (c. 24).
(a) was, immediately before the commencement of section 4 of the Treasure Act 1996 (c. 24), or
(b) apart from that Act, as successor in title, would have been,
the franchisee of the Crown in right of treasure trove for the place where the object was found.
(1) A code of practice under section 11 of the Treasure Act 1996 (c. 24) may make provision to do with objects in respect of which notice is given under section (Exception to duty to investigate)(1) or (2).
(2) No civil liability on the part of the Coroner for Treasure arises where he or she delivers an object, or takes any other action, in accordance with a code of practice under section 11 of the Treasure Act 1996 (c. 24).
(a) be under the age of 70, and
(b) satisfy the judicial-appointment eligibility condition on a 5-year basis.Vacation or termination of office
But the resignation does not take effect unless and until it is accepted by the Lord Chancellor.
(2) The Lord Chief Justice may nominate a judicial office holder (as defined in section 109(4) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (c. 4)) to exercise the functions of the Lord Chief Justice under sub-paragraph (1).Remuneration, allowances and expenses
(a) when the person ceases to be an assistant coroner;
(b) if earlier, when the designation is terminated by notice given
(i) by the person to the Chief Coroner, or
(ii) by the Chief Coroner to the person.Remuneration, allowances and expenses
(2) The Lord Chancellor may pay to an Assistant Coroner for Treasure amounts determined by the Lord Chancellor towards expenses incurred by the Assistant Coroner for Treasure in performing functions as such.Part 3MiscellaneousFunctions of Assistant Coroners for Treasure
(a) during a period when the Coroner for Treasure is absent or unavailable;
(b) during a vacancy in the office of Coroner for Treasure;
(c) at any other time, with the consent of the Coroner for Treasure.
As it applies in relation to the Coroner for Treasure, this paragraph has effect with the omission of sub-paragraph (7).
As it applies in relation to the Coroner for Treasure, this paragraph has effect with the omission of sub-paragraphs (1)(b) and (5).
Lord Alderdice: In paragraph 3 of Schedule 4, senior coroners would acquire new statutory powers to enter and search land and seize items that are relevant to their investigations, with the approval of the Chief Coroner. We do not take any issue with the creation of these powers. However, when equivalent powers are available to the police, they are required to submit themselves to the Governments code of practice. We would seek some guidance from the Minister as to whether some similar safeguards would be set out in the case of coroners because is not clear to us that, if the police have to abide by a code of practice, why it should not also apply to coroners with these substantial but, as we understand them, necessary powers. I beg to move.
Lord Tunnicliffe: Amendment 90 would require the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice for senior coroners when searching and entering land and/or seizing items on it. I understand and share the wish to ensure that any powers of search, entry and seizure that coroners have under Schedule 4 are used proportionately. However, I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, that the Bill already goes some way to ensuring that these powers will be used appropriately.
Clauses 35(3)(h) and 35(3)(i) make provision for regulations equivalent to provisions in Sections 15, 16 and 21 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. In its eighth report, which was published on 20 March 2009, the Joint Committee on Human Rights expressed the view that some of these safeguards on the exercise of power of search, entry and seizure should be in the Bill rather than in regulations. I have considered its arguments very carefully. However, I remain confidant that these regulations will provide the safeguards that the noble Lord seeks on the exercising of the power to enter and search premises and seize evidence. I can also offer the reassurance that we intend to consult on regulations and guidance once the Bill receives Royal Assent. In addition, regulations will then be subject to the negative resolution procedure.
It is also likely that the Chief Coroner will issue guidance to coroners and their staff on the use of entry, search and seizure powers, which is akin to codes of practice issued in relation to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. However, as with other guidance from the Chief Coroner, I believe that this should be left to the Chief Coroners judicial discretion when he or she takes up post, rather than be in the Bill.
By way of reassurance, noble Lords may also be aware that Schedule 4 requires any coroner who needs to use search, entry or seizure powers as part of their investigation to obtain the written authorisation of the Chief Coroner or his nominee before doing so. This will provide an extra check to ensure that the
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Lord Alderdice: I am certainly encouraged to hear that the Minister thinks it is likely that the Chief Coroner might do something of this kind and has promised that after Royal Assent there will be regulations and guidelines. But it suggests that one has to take all of this on trust. What we have requested in the Bill was not the content of a code of practice, but just the requirement of a code of practice, which does not seem to be a terrible lot to ask for. However, I hear what the Minister says about some other elements in the Bill pointing in the right direction and I shall look carefully at the precise wording that he has used in that regard to see whether or not we will come to this matter at the next stage. With that in mind, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
(a) the coroner may report the matter to a person who the coroner believes may have power to take such action;
(b) the coroner may make recommendations to the person referred to in paragraph (a);
(c) the coroner may report the matter and recommendations to the Chief Coroner, who must maintain a record of such reports and recommendations reported to him.
Lord Alderdice: I shall speak also to Amendments 93, 94, 96 and 131, which are in this group in my name and those of other noble Lords. For the families and the community as a whole, there are a number of important purposes for coroners inquests. It is not just a matter of the law being seen to be addressed. It is also important that bereaved families, friends and others feel some kind of satisfaction for themselves, which we can provide through the coroners inquests, not necessarily because particular guilt is identified, although that can be valuable, but to ensure that the same thing does not happen again for other people as individuals or society as a whole. It is not infrequent for us to hear it said by families or friends, subsequent to the loss of a loved one, that they did not die in vain. We often hear it said in respect, of course, of our military personnel, but we hear in other circumstances as well that their death has made a difference in some way, however it came about.
It is also important for society as a whole that when deaths occur, if there are lessons to be learnt, those lessons are seriously taken up and not just put on a shelf in a report and forgotten about. There are a number of ways in which we could try through this Bill to press that. In these five amendments, there are two separate ways to address that. Amendments 91, 96 and 131 taken together identify the possibility of the coroner making material available, presenting it to relevant persons, forwarding it to the Chief Coroner
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Another way to do this is described in Amendments 93 and 94, which are in a sense more prescriptive because they require that the coroners forward the information, which would be put together by the Chief Coroner and provided to Parliament. These are two similar ways of doing things: one simply puts the responsibility for drawing together the material at a higher level and is more permissive of the lower level; the other requires coroners at the local level to forward the information.
However, whichever approach one takes, the purpose of the amendments is to ensure that if there are lessons to be learnt, those lessons will be taken seriously. For example, if someone has been negligent or has not been attending properly to a matter of health or safety or to some kind of procedure, the coroner will have some responsibilityand if not the coroner, the Chief Coroner will certainly have responsibilityto identify the problem or the pattern of the problem. He will be able to ensure that the people who need to know get to know, and that eventually it makes its way through to Parliament so that we are able to monitor these requirements and to hold people accountable for what they have done and for how they might learn from mistakes or inadequacies of the past. As I say, there are in these amendments at least twoone might argue threeways in which this can be done.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: This is an important group of amendments because there is very little point in having any report if it is not appropriately acted upon. That is the principle behind the wording in the amendments. Amendments 117 and 118 concern the report that is to be laid before the House and require that appropriate action is taken in response to it. The amendments require that reports do not get shelved and gather dust, as so often happenswe know it and we see it only too oftenbut that they are acted upon. They establish a kind of audit loop whereby change is brought about.
There are several aspects of the anguish that bereaved families go through that never hit the press and never come to light. One which might seem tangential to these amendmentsbut which I would like to put on the recordis the way in which we record what happens in road deaths and the way in which we respond to the enormous catalogue of them which occur year after year. Action is often not taken appropriately. There is a great furore if there is a medical area, and rightly so; there is a great furore if there is child abuse, and rightly so; but we have become numb and almost inured to this repetitive toll of death on our roads.
This has been brought to my attention by a bereaved relative who wrote a moving letter to me on this subject knowing that we were debating the Bill. In
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Lord Kingsland: Amendments 92 and 95, like the other amendments in this group, concern the action that ought to be taken to prevent other deaths. At present, the Bill leaves it at the discretion of the coroner to decide whether to inform a person in a position of power of any action which he feels might eliminate, or at least reduce, the chances of other deaths, other deaths which might occur in a similar way.
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