Senate Passes Amendments to Coroners Act


The Senate on Friday (December 3) passed a Bill amending the Coroners Act in a bid to minimize delays in the procedures for coroners’ inquests, and further enhance the overall administration of justice. Piloting the Bill, Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator A.J. Nicholson explained that the legislation would serve to eliminate the “interminable delays” during pre-inquest procedures by establishing several ‘timeframes” for investigation and the preparation and submission of autopsy reports.
With the new arrangements, pathologists are required to submit an autopsy report to the relevant official within 48 hours of completing the postmortem examination.
In cases where the designated officer orders an autopsy to be performed, a police and autopsy report is to be submitted within 21 days of the initial notification of death to the coroner who is empowered to summon, and examine on oath, the designated officer if there is a failure to submit a report.
On the matter of jury selection, the Attorney General said jurors would now be selected randomly from the list of jurors, which is essentially the voters’ list, to eliminate the risk of persons serving too frequently or being excluded.
The Bill further proposes that designated officers ensure that notices giving details for the inquest are posted at select locations in parishes where the inquest is to be held.
Senator Nicholson further said that to minimize delays caused by the absence of witnesses required to testify at inquests, the coroner would be empowered to appoint special bailiffs to serve witnesses with summonses.
He said witnesses would be answerable to the coroner and their appointment subject to the approval of the Chief Justice. The legislation also allows for the admission of certain pre-hearing statements where the original witness is unavailable to testify.
In voicing the Opposition approval, Senator Shirley Williams welcomed the amendments, stating that they served to further enhance the timely delivery of justice. She said the adjustments would make the Act more wholesome in addressing current issues and the concerns of civil society.

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