10 December 2010
From: Brake, the road safety charity, PO Box 548, Huddersfield, HD1 2XZ
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The Editor of The Times
As charities supporting bereaved people, we welcomed the establishment of a Chief Coroner to spearhead reform of the archaic coronial system.
Inquests into sudden and contentious deaths - such as deaths from accidents, in road crashes, at work, in custody or in active service - are often the only public forum in which bereaved people can seek answers and through which other lives can be safeguarded.
Bereaved people have had to grapple with unacceptable delays, inconsistent standards of service delivery and a poorly functioning and unaccountable system.
The Chief Coroner, the centrepiece of the Coroners and Justice Act passed with cross-party support a year ago, underpins an overhaul called for by numerous inquiries, reviews and parliamentary reports. The role was designed to ensure judicial oversight, enforce national standards and increase accountability.
As part of the Public Bodies Bill to be scrutinised by the House of Lords tomorrow, the Government proposes to scrap this vital post. We urge them to reconsider. If the Chief Coroner's office is abolished, an opportunity will be wasted to create an inquest system fit for the 21st Century with bereaved families at its heart. This would be a false economy if there ever was one.
Deborah Coles, Co-Director, INQUEST
Chris Simpkins, Director General, The Royal British Legion
Debbie Kerslake, Chief Executive, CRUSE Bereavement Care
Javed Khan, Chief Executive, Victim Support
Peter Walsh, CEO, Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)
Alison Cox MBE, Founder & Chief Executive, Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY)
Ann Chalmers, Chief Executive, Child Bereavement Charity
Pamela Dix, Executive Director, Disaster Action
Rose Dixon, Chief Executive, Support after Murder and Manslaughter (SAMM National)
Angela Samata, Chair, Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS)
Mark Ferland, Chair, The Compassionate Friends
Julie Townsend, Campaigns Director, BRAKE
Amy Aeron-Thomas, Executive Director, RoadPeace