The Coroners (Amendment) Act 2019 has been commenced.
The Act amends the existing Principal Act (the Coroners Act 1962).
It will enhance and modernise the powers available to coroners in the reporting, investigation and inquest into an increased range of reportable deaths.
“I am very pleased to be able to fully commence the Coroners (Amendment) Act 2019. Essentially, this involves the commencement of the outstanding provision of the Act to improve the capacity of the Dublin Coroner Office which will now be able to conduct more inquiries into deaths,” Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan said.
The Act also clarifies and broadens the scope of enquiries at an inquest and will increase capacity for the Dublin Coroner’s Office.
The Act also improves compliance with obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights including:
- Clarifying that the purpose of the inquest goes beyond establishing the medical cause of death, to establishing the circumstances in which death took place (though it will remain the position that an inquest does not make any finding of civil or criminal liability),
- Express requirements for mandatory reporting and inquest in all maternal and late maternal deaths,
- Express requirements for mandatory reporting and inquest of a death occurring in a range of situations which constitute State custody or detention,
- Mandatory reporting to a coroner of all stillbirths, intra-partum deaths and infant deaths and, for the first time, a statutory basis for the coroner to enquire into a stillbirth where there is cause for concern (this normally arises from matters raised by the bereaved parents),
- It is now an offence for a responsible person not to report a mandatory reportable death to the coroner.
The change also permits the Deputy Coroner to act simultaneously with the Coroner for a period of two years.
This will improve the capacity of the Dublin Coroner’s Office for inquiries into deaths under the Act, and reduce the backlog of inquests awaiting hearing.
As a consequence, the Minister has designated the Dublin Coroner, Dr Myra Cullinane, as the Senior Coroner.