Coroner’s service gets to grips with backlog of death probes

MALCOLM DONNELLY: The Hartlepool coroner has helped to clear the backlog of inquests.
MALCOLM DONNELLY: The Hartlepool coroner has helped to clear the backlog of inquests.

A CORONER’S service has managed to plough its way through a massive backlog of inquests, a new report has revealed.

Teesside Coroner’s Service, which deals with sudden or unnatural deaths, has released its annual report covering its progress in 2014.

We hope that by producing this document the Teesside public are able to better understand the work of the Coroner’s Office.

Acting Senior Coroner for Teesside, Clare Bailey

Statistics from the report show that the number of inquests outstanding for six months or more, reached a high of 238 in January last year.

But by December last year, this was dramatically reduced to 16 – a drop of 93 per cent.

Throughout 2014, there were 713 inquests dealt with, almost twice as many as in any other year.

The document is the first of its kind for the area and aims to give the Teesside public a clear picture of how the service is working and its priorities for 2015.

Contained within the report are figures on the number of inquests that have been completed in 2014, the number yet to be completed and the average time taken to complete an inquest.

The report is presented by Acting Senior Coroner for Teesside, Clare Bailey.

She said: “It is important that the public have confidence in the service and that they have a clear understanding of how and why it works in the way that it does.

“We hope that by producing this document the Teesside public are able to better understand the work of the Coroner’s Office and that the knowledge of it may help when dealing with bereavement.”

Hartlepool’s coroner service was merged with Teesside in August last year after a recommendation was agreed by Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee, saving the local authority £32,210.

The amalgamation means inquests into town deaths are still held in Hartlepool by current and longstanding coroner Malcolm Donnelly, who has also helped to clear the backlog on Teesside.