21 Jan 2022

New bill to strengthen powers of Longford coroners

Charlie Flanagan

Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has published the Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2018.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, has published the Coroners (Amendment) Bill 2018, which will significantly clarify, strengthen and modernise the law on the reporting of deaths to coroners, and their powers to investigate and inquest such deaths.

“It will amend the existing legislation, the Coroners Act 1962, to significantly strengthen and modernise the powers available to coroners in the reporting, investigation and inquest of deaths.”

In particular, the Bill will allow a wider scope for inquiry where necessary at inquests, clarifying that they are not limited to establishing the medical cause of death, and seek to establish the circumstances in which the death occurred.

“The public importance of effective, transparent, and independent investigation in such cases is necessary and this, and other changes made by the Bill, will also enhance our compliance with our obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights,” added Minister Flanagan.  

“More particularly, the Bill addresses a key problem in a number of high-profile cases which have caused great public unease – that some maternal deaths and perinatal deaths occurring in hospitals, which should have been reported to coroners because they raised issues of medical error and were ‘unnatural deaths’ under the Coroners Act 1962 – were not so reported. “Bereaved families, and in some instances even coroners, experienced considerable difficulty in obtaining basic information which should have been provided to them.”

Meanwhile. the Bill will require mandatory reporting to a coroner and inquest in all cases of maternal death.  

It will also require mandatory reporting to a coroner of all stillbirths, intrapartum deaths and perinatal deaths.

Such reporting is already established as good practice.

“These changes to the law will ensure clarity for responsible persons, including hospital authorities, and will support the development of transparent and accountable oversight for checking and investigating certain types of death. Most importantly, they will support timely and transparent provision of information by health and other authorities to bereaved families,” the Minister concluded.  

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