Changes dilute Coroners’ role

A planned change to the Coroners Act which means an inquest won’t be required when a death occurs in official care or custody is a backward step and weakens the important role coroners play, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says.

“The Coroner’s Amendment Bill has some major flaws.

“It not only removes the mandatory requirement for all deaths in official custody or care to be subject to an inquest, it constrains what a coroner can report on, and fails to introduce new requirements that would make it binding on agencies to respond to coroners’ recommendations.

“There’s an opportunity here to bring New Zealand into line with other countries. This bill doesn’t do that. It takes us backwards.

“A well-resourced coronial system plays a critical role in public safety and transparency after someone has died.

“We have major concerns with the removal of the obligation for mandatory inquests, particularly when it comes to people in state care, such as children under CYF care or prisoners. The proper and full oversight of coroners in these cases is incredibly important.

“To not take the opportunity to make it a requirement for those who are referenced – such as Government agencies – to follow up coroners’ recommendations is puzzling.

“People who have lost family members will often say they want the coronial system to ensure what happened to them doesn’t happen to anyone else.

“To not even give those families a guarantee that those who might be responsible for a death will at least be required to respond to a coroner’s recommendations is inexcusable.”