At Ringrose Law we know that the death of a loved one is often one of the most traumatic experiences that any of us will ever have to go through. Most of the time the cause of death is clear allowing a bereaved family to mourn the loss and, after time, eventually start to try to rebuild their lives.

The Coroner’s Courts

However, almost half of the deaths in England and Wales are sudden, unnatural, unexplained or the cause is unknown. In these cases, the Coroner is informed and it is their job then to decide whether there should be an inquest at the Coroner’s Courts to determine the cause of death.

This has traditionally not been a quick process and families are often left waiting for months, in some cases even years, for an inquest to be carried out. Delays are often inevitable and can be for perfectly legitimate reasons, for example where there are ongoing criminal proceedings or post mortem test results are outstanding, but the pressure the overstretched and under funded Coroners are under is undoubtedly also having an effect.

New proposals have been launched by the Ministry of Justice following numerous complaints from bereaved families over the amount of time they have to wait for the answers that will allow them to try to move on. Currently, the only rule is that an inquest must be held “as soon as is practicable” but the new proposals will require them to be completed within 6 months of a person’s death, or as soon as practicable after that date.

It will also be possible for the newly appointed Chief Coroner, Judge Peter Thornton QC, to investigate any cases where an inquest has not been carried out more than 12 months after death. His appointment is intended to bring consistency to the 96 Coroners in England and Wales and to help provide a more efficient and effective service for bereaved families.

The changes will also mean that Coroners will have to provide more access to documents and evidence before an inquest takes place, allow less invasive post mortem investigations in certain circumstances and release the body to the bereaved family as soon as possible, or inform them if it will take longer than 28 days. The final two changes, in particular, reflect the concerns raised by some faith groups over the treatment of the body and who have found that the inefficiencies in the system have prevented them from performing burial rituals in line with their beliefs.

We can help

If you would like to have somebody with you at the Coroner’s Courts for the inquest of a loved one, to support you, ask the right questions and make sure you get the answers you deserve, then contact us at Ringrose Law. We will represent you at the inquest and make sure you fully understand everything that is happening during a very difficult time.

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