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Planned changes to coronial law

  • Legal Development 02 August 2021 02 August 2021
  • UK & Europe

  • Healthcare

Those working with coroner’s courts will know that the COVID-19 pandemic has created significant pressures. Almost 18 months on from the original court closures, some of the temporary changes are now likely to become permanent.

Planned changes to coronial law

On 21 July 2021, The Judicial Review and Courts Bill was introduced to the House of Commons. This Bill intends to introduce practical changes to increase efficiency in the inquest process.  

The five important inquest changes proposed in the Bill are:

  1. to enable all parties to participate at inquests remotely (currently the coroner must be physically present in the court room),
  2. to allow the coroner to conduct non-contentious inquests in writing (currently even agreed ‘Rule 23’ inquests must take place in the court room as a formal inquest hearing),
  3. to allow coronial investigations to be discontinued once the cause of death is natural, without there having been a post-mortem (currently there is an anomaly in the law which prevents this);
  4. To continue to temporarily disapply, the need for a jury in a death relating to covid-19 (which as a ‘notifiable disease’ would usually require a jury), with the power to review and this after two years; and
  5. Provide the ability for coroner’s areas within local authorities to be merged.

The new changes won’t become law until the Bill progresses through Parliament – we will update you when we hear of progress.

The likely impact of the new law (when in effect)

The changes are likely to result in coronial time and resources being used more efficiently including less travel time for coroners and less court time needed for non-contentious hearings that can instead be concluded by letter. As a result, this is likely to enable coroners to spend more time on the contentious cases, and list them to be heard in court more quickly. The back-log of inquests to be heard is likely to reduce, which will benefit both bereaved families and health and social care professionals.

Clyde & Co – Healthcare Inquest Advocates

If you would like to discuss the changes in coronial law, or your inquest hearings, please do get in touch with our experienced advocates at Clyde & Co in the Healthcare department. We are always happy to have a chat (without charge).


Additional authors:

Joseph Stoll

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