Work to clear inquest backlog in Hartlepool

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WORK to clear a huge backlog of inquests on Teesside is nearing completion as a modernisation programme continues to make significant progress.

The transformation of the Teesside Coroner’s Service – which deals with deaths from Hartlepool and East Durham if a person dies in the Teesside area – has seen the figure cut from more than 400 outstanding standard cases to just 12, with the remainder due to be cleared by the end of the year.

More than 620 inquests have been completed between January and October this year, of which approximately two thirds were backlog cases.

During that period Acting Senior Coroner Clare Bailey has concluded more than 370 inquests while Assistant Coroner Malcolm Donnelly, who focused on the backlog of enhanced inquests which take longer to conclude, has concluded more than 200 inquests.

Average completion time for new inquests is now among the best in the country at 14 weeks, while the overall figure including backlog cases has already fallen from a year to around 40 weeks.

The improvements have been achieved through the introduction of a more efficient operational model with improved processes for investigation and the handling of witnesses.

The appointments of Clare Bailey and Malcolm Donnelly followed the retirement earlier this year of long-serving Teesside Coroner Michael Sheffield.

Acting Senior Teesside Coroner Clare Bailey said: “I am very proud of what we have been able to achieve over the last few months. It has all been about team work, and has only been possible thanks to the great staff we have here in the Coroner’s Office whose work has been of great benefit to the people of Teesside.

Superintendent Peter McPhillips of Cleveland Police said: “This is a prime example of what can be achieved when partners work together.”