Coroners Amendment Bill passes third reading

  • Amy Adams

Parliament has passed reforms to make the coronial system more efficient and reduce the impact of coronial investigations on families of people who have died, says Justice Minister Amy Adams.

The Coroners Amendment Bill, which passed its third and final reading in Parliament today, stems from a targeted review of the Coroners Act 2006.

The review showed the system was working well overall but improvements could be made.

“Making the coronial system more responsive is beneficial for everyone involved, especially people affected by a sudden or unexplained death of someone they are close to,” says Ms Adams.

“This Bill makes a range of amendments to the Coroners Act 2006 to ensure that coronial processes are timely, that bodies are returned to families as soon as possible, and that inquiries and inquests proceed without delays and duplication.

“For example, pathologists will be able to undertake preliminary inspections of bodies using medical imaging technology. This should help reduce New Zealand’s high rate of coronial post-mortems, which can hold up the release of bodies to families.”

The Bill reduces unnecessary investigations, such as deaths in official care and custody that plainly arise from natural causes like illness or old age.

“The Bill also clarifies and eases restrictions on reporting of suicides and suspected suicides in the media, including on social media. News media will be able to describe a death as a suspected suicide, if the facts support this, before the coroner has made a finding, meaning they will no longer need to use euphemisms such as ‘there were no suspicious circumstances.’

“However, there will still be a ban on reporting the most harmful details – how someone killed themselves and information that suggests the method – to help prevent copy-cat suicides,” says Ms Adams.

The measures in the Bill will come into force on one month after it receives Royal Assent