From 14 January 2014, reports made by coroners to help prevent future deaths will be routinely published online.
For the first time, these reports will be available to any member of the public on a dedicated website.
Paragraph 7 of Schedule 5, Coroners and Justice Act 2009, places a statutory duty on coroners to make reports to a person, organisation, local authority or government department or agency where the coroner believes that action should be undertaken to prevent future deaths. The reports, formerly known as Rule 43 reports, are now commonly known as PFDs (Reports to Prevent Future Deaths) and, since July 2013, all PFDs and responses to them must be sent to the Chief Coroner.
Each year approximately 600 PFDs are made by coroners in England and Wales. The reports cover a wide range of topics, from suggesting a change to speed limits on particular roads to commenting on military equipment used in Afghanistan.
His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC, the Chief Coroner, said "I place great emphasis on the valuable work of coroners in saving lives by highlighting risks which need to be eliminated. That is why publishing these reports and putting them into the public domain is so important".
The Chief Coroner has encouraged coroners to make PFDs an important part of their work. To this end, he has provided written guidance and created a new template form for the reports. The template is simpler to use, easier to respond to and can be electronically filed and searched when sent to the Chief Coroner.
What this means for you
Coroners have always had a discretion to make PFD reports when they believed such a report could assist in preventing future deaths. However, they now have a statutory duty to make and submit their PFDs. The reports have also never previously been so readily accessible. In practical terms, this means that PFDs will be issued more frequently and will attract greater media attention.
Shoosmiths regulatory team
Shoosmiths' regulatory team has extensive experience of representing clients' interests at all kinds of inquests and can assist clients in a number of ways, including minimising the commercial impact of an inquest on your business and managing any adverse media attention. For more information please contact George Roberts on 03700 864207.