DEDICATED CORONERS’ COURT TO BE ESTABLISHED AT SEACLOSE AMID INQUEST BACKLOG

Isleofwightcouncillogonew2023£86,000 is to be spent on refurbishing office space at Seaclose in Newport to establish a dedicated Coroners’ Court for the Isle of Wight, in a bid to reduce one of the worst inquest backlogs in the country.

The troubles of the Coroners Service locally are well documented, with a massive backlog of cases accumulating and long waits for grieving families. The Isle of Wight is officially one of the worst places in the country for inquest delays.

Before the COVID pandemic, the average wait for an inquest was 35 weeks but that grew to 40 weeks in 2020, 56 weeks in 2021 and 63 weeks in 2022. At the end of 2022, 264 inquests were still open, compared to 188 in 2021, 195 in 2020 and 107 in 2019. The figures for 2023 are not yet known.

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For the past 3 months, there have been no inquests listed here on the Island, save for 2 ‘in writing’ Section 9C inquests. Island Echo currently has a list of more than 50 deaths of interest which have occurred in the past 3 years, all of which are expected to go to inquest.

In the past, His Majesty’s Senior Coroner Caroline Sumeray has blamed a lack of staff, a lack of available court time, availability of witnesses and the pandemic as the reasons for the ongoing delays. But little seems to have been done to resolve the situation.

Now, the Isle of Wight Council – which funds the service – has allocated nearly £90,000 to transform the first floor of its offices at Seaclose into a dedicated court. This will provide a large courtroom, jury retiring room, conference rooms and modern office space. This will be in the same building where birth, marriage and death registration is held.

It is hoped the first inquests will be held at Seaclose by September.

Currently, the Coroners Service has to rely on facilities at the Isle of Wight Combined Court Centre at Quay Street, Newport. Although the Court Service are supportive, their priority is criminal cases. They have not been able to permit the Coroner to use the Crown Court, which is the only courtroom on the Island which has dedicated jury facilities, since Summer 2022.

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It’s said that this, combined with reduced capacity within the coroner’s team, has significantly impacted the way in which the coroner has been able to deliver the service. However, jury inquests represent a small number of the overall amount of inquests held each year…

For inquests that don’t require a jury, which is the vast majority, the Youth Court is normally used. This courtroom is predominantly utilised for criminal matters just 1 day a week, raising questions as to why acquiring court time has been so difficult. During the pandemic years, the Coroner complained about the ventilation in the smaller Youth Court.

Senior Coroner Caroline Sumeray has said:

“Attending an inquest can be a distressing experience for relatives and loved ones, and we do all we can to ensure anyone attending is made to feel as comfortable as possible.

“The new facilities at Seaclose will allow the Coroners Service to have readily available access to a court, which will facilitate the hearing of cases more efficiently, helping to minimise any stress or uncertainty which can come with waiting for an inquest and ensuring that families of the bereaved have their inquests at the earliest opportunity.”

Councillor Karen Lucioni, Cabinet member for bereavement services, added:

“The Coroners Service is used at a hugely difficult and emotional periods in an individual’s life and this renovation will be done with this in mind, to make the inquest and bereavement process as easy, and as positive as is possible.

“We are keen to assist the Senior Coroner in processing her caseload and having a courtroom which she can use can only have a positive benefit for families and in delivering an effective service. When not being used as a court the room will provide a large multi-functional room for the delivery of the council’s other services”.

In 2022, Mrs Sumeray said she was hoping to have an Assistant Coroner appointed to enable 2 courts to be run. However, 2 years later, there is no sign of an assistant. The Isle of Wight Council has not answered questions as to whether an Assistant Coroner is going to be appointed as part of this investment in a new Coroners’ Court.

Over the water in Hampshire, Portsmouth and Southampton, the Coroner Service has 1 Senior Coroner, 2 Area Coroners and 7 Assistant Coroners.

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The views/opinions expressed in these comments are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Island Echo. House rules on commenting must be followed at all times.
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Ben
Ben
4 months ago

£86,000 refurbing an office that already existed? That’s a lot of money for some paint and lights good old council going with the first quote again

Stefan C. Attrill
Stefan C. Attrill
Reply to  Ben
4 months ago

I’m sure my family would love to tender for the works. £86,000 is excessive for a lick of paint and a few stud walls.

Suzie
Suzie
Reply to  Ben
4 months ago

I understand the heartache it must be for those sadly bereaved and not getting answers and agree the situation has to improve, but, The council has to look at how it is spending money, take the county hall car parking resurfacing out of the equation and put it towards this more worthwhile case.
See this link too: https://thebusinessmagazine.co.uk/property/isle-of-wights-county-hall-renovation-to-cost-1-3m/…do we actually know the full story?

Last edited 4 months ago by Suzie
Wotawally
Wotawally
Reply to  Ben
4 months ago

What about the cost of new soundproof partitions to facilitate the dedicated courtroom, and partitions for changes to the current layout of the rest of the existing space?
Moving current ceiling lights?
Moving, and installing extra power points and IT cabling?

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Wotawally
4 months ago

I see you work for the council.

John Bond
John Bond
Reply to  Ben
4 months ago

Most of the people who comment on here between 8 am and 4 pm work for the council. All they do all day is read the Island Echo and comment. They have nothing else to do.

Dr Smith
Dr Smith
4 months ago

Over the last few years there have been so many sudden and excess deaths in the world,
very sad.
My thoughts and condolences for the families who have lost loved ones during these
difficult times.

John Bond
John Bond
4 months ago

Maybe Caroline Sumeray will actually pull her finger out do some work at last. And instead of “hoping to have an Assistant Coroner appointed”, maybe she should actually advertise for one. Perhaps they can find a real grafter to get some work done at last.

Last edited 4 months ago by John Bond
Despondant
Despondant
Reply to  John Bond
4 months ago

She’s never here that’s the problem !

Zed
Zed
Reply to  Despondant
4 months ago

She resides in London and commutes. Maybe to have someone local would help?

Gid
Gid
Reply to  John Bond
4 months ago

Maybe you should apply for the job. Since you know so much . You must know who appoints people for this position

Unknown
Unknown
4 months ago

So not only do they have to suffer with the loss of someone I can tell you right now I know they are rushing though these and not even giving people the correct information and to see this is pretty disappointing and just makes me think for sure that they don’t have a bloody clue and just go on what they want to!!!

Last edited 4 months ago by Unknown
Paul
Paul
4 months ago

The first order of business should have been to sack Caroline Sumeray. She is clearly incapable of doing her job and has no empathy whatsoever for the people who are awaiting inquests into the deaths of loved ones. In fact, her attitude has been completely disparaging. She only mirrors the Isle of Wight council themselves in how to be utterly incompetent.

Boxer
Boxer
Reply to  Paul
4 months ago

It’s common knowledge in the council that there is high staff turnover in the office. That staff are treated poorly that the coroner sits on everything for months and years but blames everyone else. The staff get the blame, police, hospital everyone but the root cause. The coroner herself.

Nothing but the truth
Nothing but the truth
Reply to  Boxer
4 months ago

Doesn’t pay much either, which probably explains a lot.

John Bond
John Bond
Reply to  Nothing but the truth
4 months ago

Senior coroner pay range: £129,872 to £144,303
She gets that for doing bugger all it seems.

Despondant
Despondant
Reply to  Boxer
4 months ago

Nobody wants to work with her !

Zed
Zed
4 months ago

About time Ms Lucioni…. MORE CORONERS NEEDED. 93 weeks we waited…

John Bond
John Bond
Reply to  Zed
4 months ago

Please complain to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) (formerly known as the Office for Judicial Complaints). Examples of potential personal misconduct would be the use of insulting, racist or sexist language; or unreasonable delays in holding an inquest or replying to correspondence. There is no charge for complaining to the JCIO via the JCIO website at: http://judicialconduct.judiciary.gov.uk/making-acomplaint.htm

Boxer
Boxer
Reply to  John Bond
4 months ago

Coroners deal with all complaints about their service, complain to council about the coroner it goes to the coroner. Complain to chief Coroner it goes to the Coroner. Complain to JCIO they discuss with the Coroner and agree with the Coroner. They all p in the same pot. Having met our coroner all I ever got was me, me, me a narcissist, who frankly only cares about herself and not the island and it’s bereaved families. Unless it suits.

 

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