Written Answers. - Coroner's Court.

John Gormley

Question:

362 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Government intends to give coroners the power to compel the relevant medical consultants to attend an inquest when a person has died following a medical procedure; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10772/03]

Section 26 of the 1962 Coroner's Act provides for the summoning of medical witnesses at an inquest. Section 37 of that Act provides for the sanction which may be imposed for failure to attend at an inquest when summoned as a witness.

In the context of the implementation of the recommendations of the report of the review of the coroner's service, work is under way in my Department on the preparation of a new coroner's bill. I am also awaiting the imminent publication of the report of the coroner's rules committee. With specific reference to the Deputy's question, it is my intention that the new coroner's legislation would remove the restriction limiting to a maximum of two the number of medical witnesses a coroner may summon to give evidence.

The current sanction contained in Section 37 which may be imposed on a witness who fails to attend at an inquest is £5, €6.35. I would intend to increase this sanction significantly. I would also intend to address the issue of sanctions on those witnesses who refuse to co-operate at an inquest.