The Chief Coroner has published new guidance on remote hearings and updated guidance on inquests in writing and rule 23 evidence, both key reading material for inquest professionals and health and care organisations managing inquests.
So, what are the changes?
This post sets out the key changes from the new guidance.
Chief Coroner guidance No. 42: remote hearings
The guidance covers three types of remote attendance at hearings:
- remote observation by the public, including the media;
- remote attendance by participants (interested persons, witnesses and legal representatives); and
- remote attendance by coroners and juries.
It follows new rules that came into effect on 28 June 2022 to allow the remote observations of proceedings in any court, including the coroner’s courts.
There is no entitlement for observers or participants to attend hearings remotely – if they wish to, an application will need to be made. The guidance note explains that coroner areas may wish to publish guidance on the application process to manage the administrative burden of dealing with these applications.
Coroners are provided with guidance on what to consider when deciding on an application to observe remotely, which will be based on the circumstances of each individual case. A few scenarios are set out to support coroners with their decision making, together with guidance on managing a remote hearing.
Chief Coroner guidance No. 29: inquests in writing and rule 23 evidence
This guidance was previously titled, “Documentary inquests” and has now been updated to reflect the new rules allowing inquests to be held in writing, under a new section 9C of the Coroner’s and Justice Act 2009. They operate in tandem to the powers that coroners already had to admit written evidence at inquest hearings.
For an inquest to be held under section 9C, the guidance provides that coroners will need to:
- invite representations from each interested person;
- have no-one represent on reasonable grounds that a hearing should take place;
- consider that there is no real prospect of disagreement as to the inquest’s determinations or findings; and
- consider that no public interest would be served by a hearing.
Cases considered suitable will include those that are “straightforward and uncontentious” and four examples are given, such as:
- industrial disease cases;
- straightforward drug deaths with no reason to suspect suicide and no concerns surround the role of the addition services or healthcare provision;
- cases where medical cause of death remains unascertained, but no reason to suspect unnatural cause or a death in state detention; and
- suicides in the community where events are clear.
Do get in touch if you would like to discuss the new guidance or if you require support with an inquest – we have a friendly expert team ready to support you.