Section 40: Appeals to the Chief Coroner
291.This section provides a right of appeal to the Chief Coroner against decisions that fall within subsection (2). This right is only open to interested persons (as defined in section 47) although subsection (5) enables a person who the senior coroner decides is not classed as an interested person to appeal against the decision that he or she is not an interested person. If such an appeal is upheld by the Chief Coroner, then that person would also be entitled to appeal against the decisions listed in subsection (2).
292.Subsection (2) sets out the decisions that can be appealed. Appeals can for example be made against a decision to conduct or not conduct an investigation, a decision to discontinue an investigation and a decision to resume or not resume an investigation, for example, once criminal proceedings or an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 have concluded. It will be possible to appeal a coroner’s decision not to request a post-mortem examination. A coroner’s decision that a post-mortem examination is needed will not be subject to appeal however, except where a post-mortem of the same type has already been carried out. It will be possible to appeal against a decision as to whether an inquest is held with a jury.
293.A coroner’s determination as to who the deceased was, and how, when and where the deceased came by his or her death (and, where relevant, the circumstances of the death) can also be appealed, as can his or her finding of details required for registration of the death.
294.Subsection (3) provides for interested persons to appeal decisions of the Coroner for Treasure (or Assistant Coroner for Treasure) in relation to treasure investigations.
295.Subsection (6) enables the Lord Chancellor to change the list of decisions in subsection (2) by making an order.
296.Rules under section 45 will set out the procedure for appeals to be made to the Chief Coroner.
297.This route of appeal is new. Under the previous law, there was no appeal as such against a coroner’s decisions. An application could be made to the High Court under section 13 of the 1988 Act if a coroner refused to hold an inquest or where a fresh inquest is required. The High Court could compel a coroner to hold an inquest or quash the determination of a previous inquest and order a fresh inquest. Persons with sufficient interest could also apply for judicial review of a coroner’s decision. However, there was no simple appeal route for bereaved people and other interested persons. This section provides a route of appeal to the Chief Coroner. It also replaces the statutory procedure of application to the High Court by giving the Chief Coroner power to compel a coroner to hold an inquest, or to amend or quash a determination or finding.
298.Subsection (7) allows the Chief Coroner to consider any evidence which he or she thinks is relevant to the substance of the decision, determination or finding against which an appeal has been brought. This can include considering evidence which relates to issues that arose after the decision, determination or finding was made.
299.If the Chief Coroner allows an appeal that is not an appeal against a finding or determination, he or she can substitute his or her own decision or quash the decision and refer it back to the senior coroner for a fresh decision. If the appeal is against a finding or determination, the Chief Coroner can amend it, or quash it and order a fresh investigation. If the appeal is against a failure to make a decision – for example, to conduct an investigation – the Chief Coroner can make the decision that could have been made or, again, refer the matter back to the senior coroner for him or her to make a decision. The Chief Coroner may also make any order he or she sees fit, including an order in relation to costs, although he or she has no authority in relation to the award of legal aid.
300.A decision of the Chief Coroner or a Deputy Chief Coroner may be appealed to the Court of Appeal, on a point of law only. The Court of Appeal can either confirm the decision made by the Chief Coroner, substitute its own decision or quash the decision and ask the Chief Coroner to make a fresh decision.
301.Different appeal arrangements apply when the person acting as coroner is a High Court or Circuit Judge, in which case the appeal is to the Court of Appeal or a High Court judge, respectively (see paragraph 4 of Schedule 10).