Bereaved families are given rights to prevent future deaths
Reforms to the Coroners System Proposed
As part of the proposed reform of the coroner system, a new draft charter has been created that details the level of service that bereaved families are entitled to expect from the coroners service.
The needs of bereaved families are clearly central to the new charter which sets out the services that should be expected from the coroner’s process and the rights of redress should those services not be delivered.
The Charter also provides bereaved families with rights of appeal against particular coroner’s decisions in individual cases.
There are a number of key improvements which the Charter will bring into effect, namely, that the coroner or coroners office will now be required to contact families at least every 3 months to explain the status of the case and the reasons for any delay, and bereaved families will now be entitled to free disclosure of any documents and copies of any “lessons learned” reports and responses to them. In addition, the time limit for appeals against a coroner’s final decision will be extended from 40 days to 60 working days. There will also be a provision to ensure that families are aware that they can report a death to the coroner’s office personally if they feel that a professional agency should have reported the death but failed to do so.
It is planned that the Charter will be implemented following the Parliamentary passage of the Coroner’s and Death Certification Bill, which is due to be discussed during the 2008/2009 parliamentary session.
Ahead of the passing of this Bill, however, a new statutory duty will come into effect on the 17th July 2008 that will give coroners extra powers to help prevent avoidable deaths.
The new statutory duty will place on external organisations a period of 56 days in which to respond to a coroners report detailing any action that should be taken to prevent future deaths. The reports will then be shared with bereaved families so that they will be able to see any action that has been taken.
In addition and for the first time, the coroner’s reports and the responses to them will be collated centrally so that any trends and patterns can be monitored and analysed.