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Creation and implementation of the office of Chief Coroner

The enactment of Part 1 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (the 2009 Act) followed a long process of policy development relating to the reform of the coroner system in England and Wales. Among other things, the 2009 Act provides for the appointment of a Chief Coroner to give national leadership to the coroner service, and includes a number of powers for the Chief Coroner.

The Coalition Government considered abolishing the office of Chief Coroner, because of the costs involved, or leaving the Office on the statute book, but transferring some (but not all) of the functions of the Chief Coroner to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor.

These proposals attracted considerable criticism, from both within and outside of Parliament. On 22 November 2011, the then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Kenneth Clarke, announced that, having listened to concerns, he had decided to implement the Office of the Chief Coroner.

Appointment of Chief Coroner

The appointment of the Chief Coroner is made by the Lord Chief Justice in consultation with the Lord Chancellor. The extent of the Chief Coroner’s jurisdiction is England and Wales.

The first Chief Coroner was senior circuit judge Sir Peter Thornton QC, who was appointed on 6 May 2010 but did not begin acting as Chief Coroner until 17 September 2012. Sir Peter served as Chief Coroner until 30 September 2016. He was succeeded by His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC, who served from 1 October 2016 until 30 September 2021. The current Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Thomas Teague QC, assumed his post on 24 December 2020.

The role of the Chief Coroner

The Chief Coroner’s responsibilities include providing support, leadership and guidance for coroners in England and Wales and setting national standards for all coroners. The Chief Coroner is required to provide an annual report on the coroner system to the Lord Chancellor, to be laid before Parliament.

The Chief Coroner’s Office has published a range of materials, available on the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website, including a guide to the 2009 Act and guidance on a range of specific issues.

Coroners have a duty to make reports to a person, organisation, local authority or Government department or agency where the coroner believes that action should be taken to prevent future deaths. The reports and responses to them must be sent to the Chief Coroner. In most cases the Chief Coroner will publish the reports and responses on the Chief Coroner’s section of the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary website.

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