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MP hopes ‘new era’ will help grieving Hartlepool families after Teesside coroner’s retirement

MICHAEL SHEFFIELD

MICHAEL SHEFFIELD

HARTLEPOOL’s MP Iain Wright is hoping a new era will help grieving families following the announcement that controversial coroner Michael Sheffield will retire.

Mr Wright has been extremely outspoken in the past, joining other MPs on Teesside in demanding Michael Sheffield stepped down from his role as Teesside coroner.

Families from Hartlepool and throughout Cleveland faced an average 44-week wait until an inquest was heard by Mr Sheffield - double the national average and around two-and-a-half times longer than the 14-week 
wait for families served by town coroner Malcolm Donnelly.

The shocking figures led to Mr Wright calling for an investigation into Mr Sheffield’s performance in Parliament last year, which was subsequently carried out by the Office for Judicial Complaints.

After Mr Sheffield, who is in his 80s, finally announced his retirement this week, the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office confirmed they had received another complaint about his conduct which is currently under investigation.

And Mr Wright told the Mail he is pleased Mr Sheffield is finally stepping down.

“This, for me, has never been about personalities but the service for my constituents,” said the MP.

“It was taking around double the national average for Mr Sheffield to hold an inquest, that’s not good enough.

“The thing that always struck me about this issue is that families are grieving.

“They need authorities to be working with as much speed as possible.

“His decision is long overdue but I’m now hoping this draws a line under the service that my constituents have received and I’m hoping to see a new era.”

As Stockton is in the area covered by Mr Sheffield, anyone from Hartlepool who dies in the University Hospital of North Tees in unusual circumstances has had an inquest automatically placed into his hands.

Mr Wright said James Cook University Hospital has also been a “drive of change” for Hartlepool residents getting their inquests heard by Mr Sheffield.

“James Cook has a role to play in more Hartlepool residents having inquests heard on Teesside,” added Mr Wright.

“It’s one of the best hospitals in Europe for cardiac surgery so obviously more people are treated there.”

A statement released on behalf of Mr Sheffield yesterday said his decision to retire followed the implementation and satisfactory progress in his office’s work with the national reforms which came into effect in July last year.

Mr Sheffield will step down at the end of next month. He extended his best wishes to his successor.

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