a year ago we were reporting on a crisis in the Coroner’s office, which had a backlog of unallocated cases of more than 100 in Wakefield and Leeds. A year on, and despite reviews and extra staff, the situation is much the same.
This is not just a paperwork issue. These are people who have died, whose grieving families and friends are coping with their loss and dealing with all the emotion and the practicalities that go with a sudden death, and they are having to do so in the shadow of uncertainty over how their loved one died.
Most will probably be straightforward deaths - nothing sinister. Causes of death sometimes have to be determined by a coroner’s office even when the person died in hospital or seemed to die a natural death. Such cases should be routine for a coroner’s office and should be dealt with quickly and efficiently. Families need the cause of death and a death certificate not just to give them closure emotionally but practically.
Clearly there are problems at the Wakefield Coroner’s office and there is no choice but to draft in reinforcements. But it’s shocking that it has got to the stage where front-line officers are being taken off investigative policing duties to deal with this. Once the emergency is dealt with a root and branch shake-up of the service must be had, because we cannot have this situation at the start of 2019.