Monday, July 15, 2024

Associate Coroner roles central to new Bill

A Bill aimed at helping to reduce delays in the coronial jurisdiction passed its third reading in Parliament today.

The Coroners Amendment Bill will also see the establishment of new coronial positions, known as Associate Coroners, who will be able to perform most of the functions, powers, and duties of Coroners.

Minister for Courts, Rino Tirikatene said the new roles are intended to help reduce the time it takes for certain cases to move through the coronial system, and free up Coroners to spend more time on more complex cases.

“I acknowledge the many individuals and organisations who took the time to make a submission on this Bill, especially people who shared personal stories about their own experiences of navigating the coronial system. It is important that these voices are heard,” said Minister Tirikatene.

“In recent years, the number of active coronial cases, and the average time taken to conclude these cases, has increased, and we are working very hard to address this.

“The ultimate aim of the Bill is to reduce the distress caused to grieving families and whānau from the length of time they spend waiting to receive coronial findings.”

As well as establishing the new Associate Coroner roles, the Bill also:

  • clarifies that Coroners may record the cause of death as presumed natural causes in certain circumstances;
  • enables Coroners to decide whether a coronial inquiry is held in chambers or through an inquest in a courtroom; and
  • enables Coroners to issue written findings with the cause of death only, and not the broader circumstances, where appropriate.

The Minister said most of the changes can be implemented immediately, and work is already underway to appoint Associate Coroners.

The Bill complements other work being led by the Ministry of Justice to improve the coronial system, including the appointment of clinical advisors to support Coroners.

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