Government defeated over military inquest coroners

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Indy Politics

The Government was defeated in the Lords tonight as peers voted to give a Deputy Chief Coroner the role of specialising in military inquests.

Tory backbencher Baroness Fookes's amendment to the Coroners and Justice Bill won support from both main opposition parties and was backed by 153 votes to 127, majority 26.

Lady Fookes said that since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan some coroners had developed specialist knowledge.

She said the difference a coroner experienced at holding military inquests made to the feelings of the family of a dead service person "cannot be underestimated".

Lady Fookes added: "The fear is that that expertise might be lost with the passage of time and hence the purpose of the amendment is to ensure a senior Deputy Chief Coroner has overall responsibility for supervising any military inquest and for ensuring that those coroners who undertake it have specialist training."

Backing the amendment, Baroness Butler-Sloss, the former head of the family division of the High Court, said that training for coroners was "extremely good".

But she told peers that military inquests were such a specialist area it would be "inappropriate" to train all coroners to deal with them. She said that it would be better to have "two or three" coroners specialising in the area.

"If there isn't someone in charge it is just the sort of thing that could slip through the net," she added.

Lord Tunnicliffe, for the Government, argued that the Chief Coroner, a post created by the Bill, would ensure that coroners received appropriate training to carry out military inquests.

He said: "I remain confident that the Bill provides for all coroners to be skilled to tackle all notifications that come before them.

"There will be the oversight and responsibility for training on service personnel inquests that Lady Fookes wishes to see. This will be the role of the Chief Coroner."

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