Coroner probe is welcomed

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AN MP has welcomed an investigation into the performance of a coroner.

A top-level Government investigation has been launched into Middlesbrough-based coroner Michael Sheffield.

The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice have referred the matter to the Office for Judicial Complaints after the matter was raised by Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

He raised the issue in the House of Commons and has since written to Justice Minister Ken Clarke to outline his concerns over the service.

Figures show that Teesside families have to wait an average of more than 10 months to find out what caused the deaths of their relatives.

Mr Wright has previously said that he had been contacted by concerned families in Hartlepool who have had to deal with the Teesside coroner.

He said last year the average time taken in England and Wales to complete inquests was 27 weeks.

The equivalent figure for the Teesside coroner’s district was 43 weeks.

The town MP said: “I am encouraged that the Minister has listened to my concerns and an investigation has commenced.

“Ultimately, I want this to lead to a better service for Teesside families who have suffered the death of a loved one.”

Inquests on people from Hartlepool and east Durham become Mr Sheffield’s responsibility if they have died in hospitals or in accidents in the Teesside coroner’s area.