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New laws will mean 'fewer inquests'.

FEWER inquests are likely to take place with new legislation on the way coroners work, says the Chief Coroner for England and Wales.

Mr Justice Peter Thornton QC, revealed some of the changes to the inquest process set to take place during a visit to Birmingham.

Judge Thornton opened a seminar hosted by the newly formed St Philips' inquest and coronial law team at the chambers' city base.

"I think you will find there will be fewer inquests held and fewer delays in their being held," said Judge Thornton, who has been in post for just over a year. "New powers of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 allow coroners to make enquiries to take wider investigations as necessary. In short that means there will be fewer inquests with a natural causes outcome and fewer inquests overall."

Judge Thornton also offered an insight into both the national and regional pictures of death rates and the number of inquests held.

He said: "In England and Wales there are about 500,000 deaths a year, a static fairly constant figure.

"Births are now way up on that - about 700,000 a year - so there is quite a big disparity.

"Just under half, around 220,000, are reported to the coroner each year. Many of those cases will not go to inquest, the coroner signs off many cases as natural causes, with or without post mortems."

He added: "In Birmingham and Solihull around 5,500 deaths are reported each year with over 1,000 inquests - that may reduce.

"I have a number of strands of reform I am working on."

Judge Thornton also reminded lawyers that the coroners' court was "inquisitorial rather than adversorial" and urged them to be respectful both to the coroner and bereaved families.

"As Lord Lane famously said, it should never be forgotten it is simply an attempt to establish the facts," he explained.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 27, 2014
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