Coroners' powers may be boosted

SHANE COWLISHAW
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2012

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Giving coroners' recommendations "more teeth" is a necessary change, the chief coroner says.

A review of the coronial system and the 2006 Coroners Act was announced yesterday by Courts Minister Chester Borrows.

It will be led by the Justice Ministry and will consider the role coroners have in making recommendations, as well as whether agencies should be required to formally respond to those recommendations.

It follows the publication last week of the findings into the death of the Kahui twins in 2008.

In his report, coroner Garry Evans found that three-month-old twins Chris and Cru Kahui died in the sole custody, care and control of their father, Chris Kahui. He called for the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse to prevent further tragedies.

Chief coroner Judge Neil MacLean said it was important that agencies responded to coroners' recommendations, whether it was to agree, disagree or state there was no money to make the changes.

"I've made no secret of it with the ministry and relevant ministers that I'm interested in seeing if we might follow the Victorian model and get a little more teeth to recommendations."

New Zealand coroners had a high workload but many cases could be resolved quickly.

Others, such as the Kahui case, took months to prepare.

At present, coronial services are provided by the chief coroner, 15 coroners and support staff . For the year ending June 30, coroners took jurisdiction of 3320 cases as well as providing advice on a further 2633.

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