25 March, 2020
The Senior Coroner of North Manchester has written to all stakeholders to confirm that due to the current COVID 19 situation they have taken the decision to adjourn all Inquest hearings from 4pm on Monday 23rd March 2020 until 1st September 2020.
All cases listed between Monday 23rd March 2020 until the 1st September 2020 will now be removed from the list and all witnesses and families will be contacted. Ms Kearsley, the Senior Coroner for North of Manchester, comments it would be "unconscionable" in view of the competing demands on medical staff to require them to attend Inquests when the needs of the living are likely to be so great. In addition, many Inquests involve staff from Care Homes who are unable to attend. The period also takes into account the recommended 3 months isolation for the elderly, who regularly attend Inquests.
It is noted that coroners will continue to review files and where possible paper Inquests will be offered. The system of FastTrack Inquests for known diagnoses such as mesothelioma or where a GP is unavailable will operate as normal.
The adjournment of Inquests will also allow coroners to concentrate on dealing with deaths resulting from normal mortality, the pandemic and any problems that occur due to illness amongst the staff.
This announcement relates to the North of Manchester only, but it seems inevitable that other coroners courts will impose similar adjournments to allow the country to deal with the impact of Covid-19 (please contact your local coroners court directly for confirmation of any applicable adjournment in your area).
The Senior Coroner for North Manchester notes that during this period they will still be requesting information to progress investigations, but they will take any requests for extensions of time into consideration. It has also been confirmed that if necessary, they will review the time allowed for the production of evidence.
Should you or your organisation require any additional assistance during this period or at any time, then please contact Lucy Harris for further advice on the Inquest process, representation at an Inquest Hearing or the preparation of your response to a Prevention of Future Deaths (Reg 28)report.