Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (587, 588)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

601 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality in cases of deaths caused by gross medical negligence that require a full ECHR Article 2 type investigation and noting the restrictions imposed on a coroner by section 30 and 31 of the Coroners Act 1962 and also noting that it is not in the Health Information and Quality Authority’s remit to investigate individual cases, if he will confirm the manner in which the State fulfils its investigative obligations pursuant to Article 2 in order to identify those responsible and to establish if there has been systemic failures leading to the death; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35203/12]

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Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

602 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the reason the Coroners Bill 2007, a purpose of which is to take into account the jurisprudence of our courts and the European Courts of Human Rights, has not been enacted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35204/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 601 and 602 together.

I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 504 and 505 of 3 July 2012 which was as follows:

"The coroner is an independent officer charged with the investigation of certain reportable deaths. The primary public expression of that investigation is the inquest which seeks factually to discover the circumstances of the person's death. It provides accessibility to the deceased's family and affords a sufficient element of public scrutiny.

In a case such as the Deputy mentions as potentially arising, I am satisfied that the inquest meets the State's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, and in particular Article 2 of the Convention.

I would also mention in this regard, the Coroners (Amendment) Act 2005, which ended the restriction on the coroner from summoning more than 2 medical witnesses to give evidence at an inquest, increased sanctions on witnesses and jurors who failed to attend or cooperate at an inquest and increased powers of compellability for the coroner in regard to the attendance of witnesses and jurors at an inquest.

The Coroners Bill 2007 is before the Seanad having been restored to the Order Paper on my initiative. The Bill is in the course of being reviewed in my Department with a view, among other matters, to making it as cost-effective as possible. The Bill, as published, provides for the comprehensive reform of the existing legislation and structures relating to coroners and provides for the establishment of a new Coroner Service.

The Bill incorporates many of the recommendations made by the Coroners Review Group in 2000 and the Coroners Rules Committee in 2003. It also has regard to developments since in terms of jurisprudence both in our own courts and the European Court of Human Rights and to ongoing reform of coroner services in other common law jurisdictions.

The Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 provided for some early reforms in coronial matters."

I have nothing further to add to that reply.