Coroner service in Hartlepool is best in the country

Coroner Malcolm Donnelly.
Coroner Malcolm Donnelly.

Official inquiries into unexplained or unnatural deaths in Hartlepool are among the quickest in the country to be concluded.

Government statistics show Hartlepool Coroner’s Service is joint top in England and Wales for the time inquests are completed.

I am very proud of the service we continue to provide

Hartlepool coroner Malcolm Donnelly

The newly-released annual figures show that town coroner Malcolm Donnelly recorded an average time of just six weeks in 2015.

It makes Hartlepool the top performing service in the country.

Mr Donnelly said: “I am very proud of the service we continue to provide which is one of the best in the country as we have done for many years.”

Families in West London faced the longest wait at 61 weeks while the average time for England and Wales was 20 weeks.

Out of 301 reported deaths in Hartlepool during 2015, Mr Donnelly conducted 108 inquests.

The majority, at 72, were ruled to be natural causes, followed by 16 which were drugs or alcohol-related, Four were ruled to be suicide and eight were as a result of industrial diseases.

One was classed as unlawful or lawful killing and one came under the heading of ‘other’.

It was an increase of cases from 2014 when Hartlepool had 235 reported deaths and 33 inquests.

A number of inquests into Hartlepool residents are also dealt with by Teesside’s coroner service if the person dies in hospital or some other out of town location.

It carried out 506 inquests in 2015, an increase from 368 the previous year.

But the time taken to conclude hearings on Teesside has dramatically reduced from 33 weeks in 2014 to just eight weeks in 2015.

Mr Donnelly, previously helped to clear a long backlog of Teesside cases which was created during former senior coroner Michael Sheffield’s time in charge.

It emerged this week that a proposed merger of the Hartlepool and Teesside services will not go ahead.

It follows disagreement between the four local authority areas affected over how to chose the role of senior coroner.

Hartlepool said Mr Donnelly should be given the role due to his experience while Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar & Cleveland councils said it should have been advertised openly.