An Old Bailey Judge has been named as the first Chief Coroner for England and Wales. The appointment of HHJ Peter Thornton QC, who oversaw the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson, was announced by the Ministry of Justice this week.
Plans to appoint a Chief Coroner were scrapped in 2010 when the Ministry of Justice announced that the planned post of Chief Coroner was to be abolished. At the time it was felt that the axing of this position would have several implications on the inquest system, especially in relation to the right of bereaved families to appeal decisions made during inquest hearings.
After months of relentless campaigning by groups like INQUEST; the Government backed down and the Chief Coroner position has finally been created.
This is a welcome step towards reforming the current coronial system. The Ministry of Justice has said that the new position will ensure that "inquests are timely and effective, and bereaved families are provided with the information and support they need throughout this emotionally difficult process".
We can only hope that the lengthy delays and archaic systems which families have been experiencing for many years will finally be given the overhaul that is so desperately needed.
By Gemma Vine, Inquest Solicitor