There has been a substantial reduction in delays in coroner cases in the past year according to the Chief Coroner, HHJ Peter Thornton QC.
The number of inquest cases which have not been completed within 12 months from the date of the death being reported to the coroner has fallen by 45%. In 2013-2014 there were 2,673 cases over 12 months and not yet completed (or discontinued). The figure for 2014-2015 has fallen to 1,467, which is less than 1% of all deaths referred to coroners in England and Wales.
70% of all coroner areas in England and Wales have recorded a decrease in the number of outstanding cases over 12 months from the previous year.
This means that the vast majority of the 97 coroner areas in England and Wales, some 80% of coroner areas, now have 20 or fewer cases outstanding over 12 months, some 80% of coroner areas.
Chief Coroner, HHJ Peter Thornton QC said:
“I welcome the reduction of delays in coroner cases. Coroners have responded well to requests to review and complete older cases. Backlogs in many coroner areas have been dramatically reduced. This is good news for bereaved families. Each case should be given special care and attention so that it is completed within a fair timescale. This requires keen case management and the effective deployment of local resources. With further work I believe this trend should continue next year as well.”
There are often good reasons for older cases being outstanding: for example, ongoing police inquiries, criminal prosecutions, investigations in countries overseas, and Health and Safety Executive or Prison and Probations Ombudsman inquiries.
Notes to editors
1. Senior Coroners are required to notify the Chief Coroner of all coroner investigations which have not been completed or discontinued within a year of the death being reported to the Senior Coroner under section 16 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
2. The Chief Coroner must keep a register of notifications under section 16. He is required to provide a summary of the notifications in the Chief Coroner’s annual report to the Lord Chancellor, which will be published in July 2015.
3. The Chief Coroner will not publish detailed statistics relating to individual coroners’ areas this year, but in future years more detailed statistics will be collated and published. Some additional information will be available in the Chief Coroner’s Annual Report, which will be published in July 2015.