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Volunteers to help ease the pressure on the coroner's court service.

Byline: Michael Brown Reporter

CORONER'S courts could soon be staffed with volunteers in an effort to improve the system.

A new Coroners' Courts Support Service is to be launched in Newcastle.

It aims to make the whole process less intimidating and distressing for families who have lost loved ones and witnesses called to give evidence.

"Coroners courts are in the main a very unfamiliar environment for people," said Newcastle coroner Karen Dilks.

"And it's fair to say that the coroner's court is very different from other courts and it's very rare that people would have any experience of them.

"Most people's experience of courts is TV and that's mostly inaccurate, so they are thrust into a process they know nothing about.

"Historically there has been no provision other than really the coroners officers to give any support.

"But now this group of volunteers are going to provide that."

The initiative is rolling out across the country, with similar schemes in their early stages in Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Durham and Darlington.

Ms Dilks said the service would help to take some of the pressure off coroners officers, and could mean less time during hearings having to explain the process, hopefully speeding up hearings.

But Coroners' Court Support Service co-ordinator Samantha Catt warned the role may not be for all.

"It's not for everyone, as you'd be supporting people through what can be a harrowing process," she said.

Training and support would be provided, however, for anyone who thinks they have what it takes.

| Anyone interested in |volunteering for the service can call Ms Catt on 07496 613632 or email for an information pack.

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Newcastle coroner Karen Dilks

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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2015
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