Section 39: Inspection of coroner system
286.This section sets out that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Courts Administration will carry out inspections of the operation of the coroner system, and report their findings to the Lord Chancellor. The Chief Coroner and Deputy Chief Coroners (or a person acting as a senior coroner under Schedule 10) will not be inspected in relation to any functions they carry out as such.
287.Under subsection (2), inspectors will not be able to inspect persons making judicial decisions or exercising judicial discretion. This would include decisions taken about whether or not to order a post-mortem examination or matters relating to the scope or conduct of inquests.
288.Under subsection (3), the Chief Inspector must report to the Lord Chancellor on any matter related to the operation of the coroner system that the Lord Chancellor refers to the Chief Inspector. There is also provision (in section 60(5) of the Courts Act 2003) enabling an inspector to carry out the Chief Inspector’s functions in the event that he or she is unable to do so.
289.Under subsection (4), the section provides for inspectors to enter coroners’ work premises and to take copies of any relevant records. Although they will be entitled to be present at inquests, under subsection (5) they will not be able to attend private deliberations, such as jury meetings, or inquests where there has been a direction to exclude persons under Coroners rules (see section 45(3)).
290.Where a report under subsection (1) or (3) recommends that action is taken by a senior coroner, there is power in subsection (8) for the Lord Chancellor to direct the senior coroner to take the action within a specified period.