First Chief Coroner Appointed

  • Michael Cullen

District Court Judge Neil MacLean has been appointed as the first Chief Coroner under the new Coroners Act, Attorney–General Michael Cullen announced today.

The Coroners Act 2006 repeals and replaces the Coroners Act 1988. It establishes the office of Chief Coroner and a body of up to 20 legally qualified full-time Coroners.

The new Act introduces significant new reforms designed to enhance public confidence in the integrity and independence of the coronial system. It also recognises the need to address the distinct spiritual and cultural needs of Mâori and other ethnic or religious groups as far as possible, in keeping with the purpose and function of the coronial regime

The main function of the Chief Coroner will be to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the coronial system provided for by the Act with the objective of raising the professionalism of the coronial service and to promote consistency of coronial practice throughout the country.

Judge MacLean was a partner in three Christchurch law practices between 1972 and 1993. Prior to his appointment to the District Court Bench, Judge MacLean served as the Coroner for Christchurch from 1978 to 1993. He has continued to carry out inquests since his judicial appointment, usually for complex matters or where a second inquest has been directed, or where another Coroner has a conflict of interest. He also assisted in the preparation of the Coroners’ Manual 1988 and provided consultative information to the Chief Judge regarding the Coroners Bill 2006.

Judge MacLean will take up his appointment in the New Year.