25th October 2011

Ahead of today’s debate on the Public Bodies Bill, 18 national charities have written to the Times to urge MPs to vote to take the office of the Chief Coroner out of the Bill. The letter reads

Charities supporting bereaved people will be watching MPs closely today. Two years ago we welcomed Parliament’s decision to establish a Chief Coroner. Now as part of the Public Bodies Bill before the House of Commons today, the Government proposes to dismantle this vital post.

Inquests into contentious or sudden deaths – in accidents, in road crashes, at work, through suicide, in custody or in the Armed Forces – are often the only public forum in which bereaved people can seek answers and other lives can be safeguarded. But they are beset with unacceptable delays, inconsistent standards of service.

The Chief Coroner, as the centrepiece of the Coroners and Justice Act passed with cross-party support in 2009, underpins a necessary overhaul. The role was designed to ensure judicial oversight, enforce national standards and increase accountability. The Chief Coroner would lead the development of a functioning system that could make a vital contribution to saving lives. 

The proposals to dismantle the role and transfer certain responsibilities to others will not bring about the reform necessary to improve bereaved families’ experiences.  Instead, the piecemeal measures will add further complexity and uncertainty to an already fragmented system.

We must not lose this opportunity to create an inquest system fit for the 21st Century with bereaved families at its heart. That is why we urge all MPs to support the amendment tabled by Conservative backbencher, Andrew Percy MP, to remove the Chief Coroner from the Bill.

Helen Shaw, Co-Director, INQUEST

Chris Simpkins, Director General, The Royal British Legion

Javed Khan, Chief Executive, Victim Support

Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care

Pamela Dix, Executive Director, Disaster Action

Catherine Johnstone, Chief Executive, Samaritans

Alison Penny, Childhood Bereavement Network: National Children’s Bureau

Ann Chalmers, Chief Executive, Child Bereavement Charity

Mark Goldring CBE, Chief Executive, Mencap

Neal Long, Chief Executive, Sands

Angela Samata, Chair, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide

Diana Youdale, Chief Executive, The Compassionate Friends

Peter Walsh, Chief Executive, Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)

Stephanie Trotter OBE, President & Director, CO-Gas Safety

Cynthia Barlow, Chair, RoadPeace

Alison Cox MBE, Founder & Chief Executive, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY)

David Hines, Chairman, National Victims’ Association

Eve Henderson, Director & Co-founder, Support After Murder & Manslaughter Abroad

Notes to editors:

INQUEST’s press release 24 October MPs URGED TO VOTE TO SAVE THE CHIEF CORONER can be read here.