Coronial system to be reviewed

  • Chester Borrows

Courts Minister Chester Borrows today announced a targeted review of the coronial system and the Coroners Act 2006.

“In many respects the coronial system is working well.  However, after speaking with coroners and families, I am conscious that there may be room for further improvement”, says Mr Borrows. 

“The coronial process impacts on families already grieving over the unexpected death of a family member.  I am keen to look at how we can improve the timeliness and efficiency of the coronial process to reduce the impact on those families,” he said. 

The review will also consider ways to balance coroners’ workloads and improve the consistency of coronial investigations and decision making around the country. Potential duplication between the role of the coroner and other authorities that investigate deaths, such as mortality review committees, will also be addressed.

The nature of recommendations that coroners should be able to make to prevent future deaths, and whether agencies should be required to make formal responses to those recommendations, will also be part of the review.

The Ministry of Justice will lead the review. It will seek the views of professional groups who work closely with the coronial system, such as coroners, doctors, funeral directors and pathologists.

“I am also happy for members of the public to write to me with their views”, says Mr Borrows. 

“I look forward to the review’s results at the end of this year, and intend to take proposals stemming from the review to Cabinet in early 2013.

Additional information

The aims of the review will be to:

  • better balance the needs of grieving families, including the cultural needs of Māori whānau, with the public interest in understanding the causes and circumstances of deaths
  • improve the quality, consistency and timeliness of coronial investigations and decision making
  • clarify the role of coroners and reduce duplication between coroners and other authorities that investigate deaths and accidents
  • clarify the role coroners have in making recommendations to prevent future deaths and the relationship to agencies that have policy and operational responsibility in those areas, and
  • ensure resources are used effectively.

Coronial services are currently provided by a Chief Coroner, 15 permanent coroners and support staff.  In the year ending 30 June 2012, coroners took jurisdiction of 3,320 cases and provided advice on a further 2,633 cases (5,953 in total).