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Yesterday saw the coming into force of the The Coroners (Inquests) Rules 2013 and the Coroners (Investigations) Regulations 2013. The explanatory note to the Inquest Rules provides that they are made under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. Part 1 of the 2009 Act introduces a new regime for death investigations and inquests, which replaces the Coroners Act 1988 and the Coroners Rules 1984. Under the 2009 Act a coroner must conduct an investigation into violent or unnatural deaths, deaths where the cause is unknown and deaths which occur in custody or otherwise in state detention. In certain cases this investigation will include the coroner holding an inquest.

They apply to any inquest which has not been completed before 25th July 2013. Any direction, time limit, adjournment or other decision made by a coroner in relation to an inquest made before 25th July 2013 still stands.  The main changes relate to disclosure.  Under regulation 13 where an interested person asks for disclosure of a document held by the coroner the coroner must now provide the document or a copy of the document. Under Regulation 15 there are restrictions on disclosure. A coroner may refuse to provide a document or a copy of a document where

(a) there is a statutory or legal prohibition on disclosure;

(b) the consent of any author or copyright owner cannot reasonably be obtained;

(c) the request is unreasonable;

(d) the document relates to contemplated or commenced criminal proceedings; or

(e) the coroner considers the document irrelevant to the investigation

The coroner may charge a fee for disclosure.

The Rules provide for evidence via video link or from behind a screen.

Under Rule 19 there is now a specific entitlement for any interested person who so requests to examine any witness either in person or by their representative. And under Rule 19 (2) as before a coroner must disallow any question put to the witness which the coroner consider irrelevant.

Under Rule 21 the order of examining witnesses is as follows

(a) first by the coroner;

(b) then by any interested person who has asked to examine the witness; and

(c) if the witness is represented at the inquest, lastly by the witness’s representative.

Rule 22 provides for the same privilege against self-incrimination as under the 1984 Rules

Rule 23 provides for a change in relation to the admission of written evidence to the old Rule 37 of the 1984 Rules as follows

(1) Written evidence as to who the deceased was and how, when and where the deceased

came by his or her death is not admissible unless the coroner is satisfied that—

(a) it is not possible for the maker of the written evidence to give evidence at the inquest

hearing at all, or within a reasonable time;

(b) there is a good and sufficient reason why the maker of the written evidence should not

attend the inquest hearing;

(c) there is a good and sufficient reason to believe that the maker of the written evidence will

not attend the inquest hearing; or

(d) the written evidence (including evidence in admission form) is unlikely to be disputed.

(2) Before admitting such written evidence the coroner must announce at the inquest hearing—

(a) what the nature of the written evidence to be admitted is;

(b) the full name of the maker of the written evidence to be admitted in evidence;

(c) that any interested person may object to the admission of any such written evidence; and

(d) that any interested person is entitled to see a copy of any written evidence if he or she so


(3) A coroner must admit as evidence at an inquest hearing any document made by a deceased

person if the coroner is of the opinion that the contents of the document are relevant to the

purposes of the inquest.

(4) A coroner may direct that all or parts only of any written evidence submitted under this rule

may be read aloud at the inquest hearing.

Rule 26 provides that a coroner must keep a recording of every inquest including any pre-inquest review hearing and Rule 27 preserves the restriction that no person may address the coroner or the jury as to the facts of who the deceased was and how, when and where the deceased came by his or her death.

Form 2 sets out how the record of the inquest must be recorded by the coroner.

This sets out various conclusions rather than a verdict which has been dispensed with as part of the terminology used. The ocnclusions listed are se are

    I.Accident or misadventure
    II.Alcolohol/drug related
    III.Industrial disease
    IV.Lawful/unlawful killing
    V.Natural causes
    VII.Road traffic collision

As an alternative a brief narrative conclusion may be made.The standard of proof required for the short form conclusions of “unlawful killing” and “suicide” is the ciriminal standard of proof. For all other short-form conclusions and a narrative statement  the standard of proof is the civil standard of proof.

The old power under rule 43 of the 1984 Rules to make a report to prevent other deaths is now transformed into a duty under Paragraph 7(1) of Schedule 5 of the 2009 Act and Rule 28 of the The Coroners (Investigations) Regulations 2013 provides the report must be sent to the Chief Coroner and every interested person who in the coroner’s opinion should receive it and that the coroner must send a copy of the report to the appropriate Local Safeguarding Children Board where the Coroner believes the deceased was under 18 and may send it to any other person who the coroner believes may find it useful or of interest. The Chief Coroner has power to publish the report or a summary of it in such manner as the Chief Coroner thinks fit. Paragraph 7(2) of Schedule 5 places a person to whom a senior coroner has made such a report under a duty to give a written response to it. Rule 29 of the Investigation Regulations sets out what the response must contain and that it must be made within 56 days of the date the report is sent and this too may be published by the Chief Coroner. In the unlikely event that such a person does not comply then would proceedings may lie for contempt of court?