CONTROVERSIAL Teesside Coroner Michael Sheffield has announced his retirement after more than 40 years of service.
Mr Sheffield will retire at the end of April this year and has thanked those who have worked with him over the many years he has served the public of Teesside.
The coroner had survived calls for his retirement in the past from Hartlepool’s coroner Malcolm Donnelly and MPs in the area, including Iain Wright due to the long delays families have faced to find answers about the deaths of their loved ones.
A probe was launched by Government watchdog, the Office for Judicial Complaints, into Mr Sheffield’s performance last year over the time it was taking for him to hold inquests, including those into deaths of people from Hartlepool and East Durham.
Families from the town and the other areas Mr Sheffield serves – including Stockton and Middlesbrough – faced an average 44-week wait until an inquest is held, Ministry of Justice figures showed at the start of last year.
That was almost twice the national average wait of 26 weeks, and about two-and-a-half times longer than the mere 14-week wait for families served by Hartlepool’s Mr Donnelly.
A statement issued today on behalf of Mr Sheffield says his retirement follows the implementation and satisfactory progress in the increased resourcing and administration of the Teesside Coroner’s Office after national reforms came into effect in July last year.
Mr Sheffield has extended his best wishes to his successor and also thanked Jacqui Cheer, who he said has helped enormously to assist the service in its “resourcing and evolution” since her appointment as Chief Constable of Cleveland Police.