Chapter 7: Supplementary
Section 43: Coroners regulations
306.This section enables the Lord Chancellor, with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice, to make regulations for regulating the practice and procedure in connection with investigations (excluding inquests), post-mortem examinations and exhumations.
307.Regulations will include, for example, arrangements for:
suspending and resuming investigations;
discharging an investigation and providing for fresh investigations;
delegation of a senior coroner’s functions relating to investigations;
retention, release and disposal of bodies including reinterment; and
exercise of the powers of entry, search and seizure.
Section 44: Treasure regulations
308.Treasure regulations may be made on the same basis as those under section 43. The Lord Chancellor will make the regulations with the agreement of the Lord Chief Justice or a judicial nominee. These regulations may also apply provisions of Coroners rules (subsection (4)).
309.Regulations will include, for example, arrangements for:
delegation of the Coroner for Treasure’s functions;
requiring information to be given to the Chief Coroner for an annual report under section 36(1); and
exercise of the powers of entry, search and seizure in relation to treasure investigations.
Section 45: Coroners rules
310.This section enables Rules to be made by the Lord Chief Justice (or his or her nominee) as to the practice and procedure at or in connection with inquests and appeals to the Chief Coroner, thus separating out the inquest component of the senior coroner’s investigation. It replicates the power in section 32 of the 1988 Act.
311.Subsection (2) sets out particular matters about which rules can be made. These are as follows:
Subsection (2)(a) allows for rules regarding evidence including sworn and unsworn evidence;
Subsection (2)(b) allows for rules regarding discharging a jury and summoning a new jury;
Subsection (2)(c) concerns discharging inquests and holding fresh inquests;
Subsection (2)(d) concerns adjourning and resuming inquests;
Subsection (2)(e) would allow the senior coroner to direct that a person’s name should not be disclosed except to persons specified in the direction. It is anticipated that any provision made in rules for this discretion will be used sparingly, for example during inquests into the deaths of UK Special Forces personnel or other investigations where witnesses need to remain anonymous to protect their safety;
Subsection (2)(f) provides for rules relating to a senior coroner delegating his or her non-judicial functions:
Subsection (2)(g) permits rules about disclosure of information held by the senior coroner:
Subsection (2)(h) concerns excusing persons from jury service;
Subsection (2)(i) allows for rules that would clarify when the Coroner for Treasure should hold an inquest into a possible treasure find; and
Subsection (2)(j) allows for rules requiring permission to be given to an appeal to the Court of Appeal.
312.Subsection (3) sets out particular matters in relation to which rules can confer a power on a senior coroner or the Coroner for Treasure. Subsection (3)(a) would enable the coroner to decide that, if in his or her opinion the interests of national security required it, certain persons should be excluded from attending all or part of an inquest.
313.Subsection (3)(b) enables a senior coroner or the Coroner for Treasure to exclude persons from an inquest during the giving of evidence by a person aged under 18. A child or young person may find giving evidence at an inquest intimidating or traumatic. These powers would enable the coroner to be flexible about how evidence could be given.
Section 46: Abolition of the office of coroner of the Queen’s household
314.This section abolishes the office of coroner of the Queen’s household. In future, any investigation which would have been carried out by the coroner of the Queen’s household will be carried out by the senior coroner in whose area the body is, or by a coroner directed by the Chief Coroner to carry out the investigation or by a coroner requested to carry out the investigation under section 2.
Section 47: “Interested person”
315.This section lists those who come within the definition of the term “interested person”. “Interested persons” have, amongst other things, the right to appeal against certain decisions made during the course of investigations and inquests (section 40). In addition to the specific list of those that fall into the category of “interested person”, there is power for the coroner to determine that any other person is an interested person. This expands slightly the list of “interested persons” in rule 20(2) of the 1984 Rules and is intended to capture, for example, the role of the Independent Police Complaints Commission in conducting and managing some investigations.
316.Subsection (6) lists those who can be classed as an “interested person” for investigations into treasure finds.
Section 48: Interpretation: general
317.This section explains the meaning of various terms used within this Part of the Act: for example, where the word “body” is used, this includes body parts.
Section 49 and Schedule 11: Amendments to the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) 1959
318.Subsection (1) amends section 13 of the 1959 Act to enable a coroner to hold an inquest if informed that the body of a deceased person is lying within the coroner’s district, irrespective of where the death took place. This will enable inquests to take place where a death has occurred abroad and the body is returned to Northern Ireland.
319.Subsection (2) introduces Schedule 11, which substitutes for section 17 of the 1959 Act new sections 17A to 17C, which make provision concerning witnesses and evidence and related offences in relation to inquests in Northern Ireland. This brings Northern Ireland into line with the reformed system in England and Wales, as it contains provisions which are broadly equivalent to those contained in Schedule 6.
Section 50: Amendments to the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976
320.This section makes amendments to the Fatal Accidents and Sudden Deaths Inquiry (Scotland) Act 1976 (the 1976 Act). Subsection (2) inserts a new section 1A into the 1976 Act. If subsection (4) of new section 1A applies, the procurator fiscal for the appropriate district will be required to investigate the circumstances of a death and apply to the sheriff to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry.
321.Subsection (4) of new section 1A will apply if three conditions are met. First, the Lord Advocate is notified under section 12 (discussed at paragraphs 124 to 130) by the Secretary of State or Chief Coroner that it may be appropriate for a death to be investigated under the 1976 Act. Secondly (in the same way that Fatal Accident Inquiries would be triggered for a death that occurs in Scotland) the person who died was either in legal custody at the time of death or the death was sudden, suspicious or unexplained or the circumstances of the death would give rise to serious public concern. And thirdly, the Lord Advocate decides that it would be appropriate for a Fatal Accident Inquiry to be held into the death and does not reverse this decision.
322.Subsection (5) of new section 1A provides that subsection (4) does not apply to a death if the Lord Advocate is satisfied that criminal proceedings have sufficiently established the circumstances of the death.
323.Subsection (6) of new section 1A outlines the process of an application from the procurator fiscal to the sheriff for a Fatal Accident Inquiry. Subsection (7) gives the Lord Advocate the responsibility for determining the appropriate district and sheriffdom.
324.Subsections (3) to (5) make consequential amendments to sections 2, 3 and 6 of the 1976 Act.
Section 51: Public funding for advocacy at certain inquests
325.Section 6(6) of the Access to Justice Act 1999 states that the Legal Services Commission may not fund, as part of the Community Legal Service, any of the services specified in Schedule 2 to that Act. Paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 states that the Legal Services Commission may not fund advocacy, except in the circumstances listed in that paragraph.
326.Section 51 amends the list in paragraph 2 of circumstances where advocacy can be made available by adding (a) inquests into the deaths of British service personnel who die while on active service, and (b) inquests into the deaths of persons who die while in the custody of the State, or those who die in the course of a police action or arrest. The Legal Services Commission will be authorised to fund advocacy for family members to be represented at such inquests, subject to the funding criteria in the Funding Code made under section 8 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 being met. Funding would also be subject to a means test.