Access to Justice Act 1999: provisions affecting coroners
The Access to Justice Act 1999 contains two sections affecting coroners. These are s 71, dealing with adjournment of an inquest when a judicial public inquiry is to be held into the incident in which the death(s) in question occurred, and s 104, dealing with the coroner's right to indemnity from his local authority in respect of legal proceedings brought against him (in some cases, by him) in respect of his coronial activities.
Section 71, which came into force on 1 January 2000 (see S.I. 1999 No. 3344), so as to allow a new r 37A first to be inserted (by S.I. 1999 No. 3325) into the Coroners Rules 1984, inserts a new s 17A into the Coroners Act 1988. Home Office Circular No 59 of 1999 discusses the new provisions. Section 104, which came into force on 27 September 1999, inserts a new s 27A into the same Act. Home Office Circular No 43 of 1999 (not so far on the internet) gives more guidance. For convenience, the texts of both sections, and of rule 37A, are set out below.
Access to Justice Act 1999
71. - (1) In the Coroners Act 1988, after section 17 insert-
"Adjournment of inquest in event of judicial inquiry.
17A. - (1) If on an inquest into a death the coroner is informed by the Lord Chancellor before the conclusion of the inquest that-
the coroner shall, in the absence of any exceptional reason to the contrary, adjourn the inquest and, if a jury has been summoned, may, if he thinks fit, discharge them.
(2) Where a coroner adjourns an inquest in compliance with subsection (1) above, he shall send to the registrar of deaths a certificate under his hand stating, so far as they have been ascertained at the date of the certificate, the particulars which under the 1953 Act are required to be registered concerning the death.
(3) Where a coroner has adjourned an inquest in compliance with subsection (1) above, the Lord Chancellor shall send him the findings of the public inquiry as soon as reasonably practicable after their publication.
(4) A coroner may only resume an inquest which has been adjourned in compliance with subsection (1) above if in his opinion there is exceptional reason for doing so; and he shall not do so-
(5) Where a coroner resumes an inquest which has been adjourned in compliance with subsection (1) above-
(6) Where a coroner does not resume an inquest which he has adjourned in compliance with subsection (1) above, he shall (without prejudice to subsection (2) above) send to the registrar of deaths a certificate under his hand stating any findings of the public inquiry in relation to the death."
(2) In section 8(4) of that Act (power to summon jury), for "either before he proceeds to hold an inquest" substitute "before he proceeds to hold an inquest, on resuming an inquest begun with a jury after the inquest has been adjourned and the jury discharged".
(3) In the sidenote to section 16 of that Act (adjournment
of inquest in certain cases), for "certain cases" substitute
"event of criminal proceedings".
104. - (1) In the Coroners Act 1988, after section 27 insert-
27A. - (1) A coroner shall be indemnified by the relevant council
(without having to lay before them an account under
section 27 above) in respect of-
(2) Subsection (1) above applies in relation to proceedings by a coroner only if and to the extent that the relevant council agrees in advance to indemnify him.
(3) A coroner may appeal to the Secretary of State, or to any person appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose, from any decision of the relevant council under subsection (2) above.
(4) Any amount due to a coroner under this section shall be paid-
(5) In the case of a coroner for a coroner's district which-
any amount due to the coroner under this section shall be apportioned
between the councils of those districts, boroughs,
areas or counties in such manner as they may agree or, in default of agreement, as may be determined by the Secretary of State."
(2) In the Coroners Act (Northern Ireland) 1959, after section 5 insert-
5A. - (1) A coroner shall be indemnified by the Lord Chancellor in respect of-
(a) any costs which he reasonably incurs in or in connection
with proceedings in respect of anything done or omitted in the exercise (or purported exercise) of his duty as a coroner;
(b) any costs which he reasonably incurs in taking steps to dispute any claim which might be made in such proceedings;
(c) any damages awarded against him or costs ordered to be paid by him in any such proceedings; and
(d) any sums payable by him in connection with a reasonable settlement of any such proceedings or claim.
(2) Sub-section (1) applies in relation to proceedings by a coroner only if and to the extent that the Lord Chancellor agrees in advance to indemnify him.
Coroners Rules 1984, r 37A (as inserted by the Coroners (Amendment) Rules 1999)
Public inquiry findings
37A.- (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of Rule 37, at an inquest resumed after having been adjourned pursuant to section 17A of the 1988 Act, the coroner may admit documentary evidence relevant to the purposes of the inquest and containing the findings of the public inquiry to which section 17A(1)(a) refers.
(2) Before admitting such documentary evidence, the coroner shall at the beginning of the resumed inquest announce publicly-
(a) that the findings of the public inquiry may be admitted,
(b) the title, date of publication and a brief account of those findings, and
(c) that any person who, in the opinion of the coroner, is within Rule 20(2) is entitled to see a copy of any such documentary evidence if he so wishes.
(3) Any documentary evidence admitted under this Rule shall, unless the coroner
otherwise directs, be read aloud at the inquest.
Last modified: Monday, 09-Aug-2004 08:53:09 BST by: Malcolm Bishop