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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Cumbria to lose one of its two coroners

Cumbria is set to lose one of its two coroners later this year leaving only one to cover the whole of the county – but council bosses say that services will be unaffected.

Ian Smith photo
Ian Smith

It has been announced that Ian Smith, the current coroner for the east and south of the county, is to retire in October with no plans to appoint a replacement.

That leaves only David Roberts, who handles the north and west of the county, to take over duties across the whole of Cumbria.

However, Cumbria County Council, who manage the coroner’s service, say there will be “no impact on the frontline delivery” and the move not to replace Mr Smith is not a cost-cutting measure.

A spokesman said: “We see this as an opportunity to deliver what the Ministry of Justice and Chief Coroners Office recommended in the 2009 Coroners and Justice Act – a single coroner for Cumbria. Delivering greater uniformity of service and a less complicated matrix of coroners’ areas across England and Wales.”

The proposals are still subject to formal approval and the decision has not yet been taken by the county council’s cabinet.

They will discuss the issue on July 24 with any proposals also needing to be approved by the Lord Chancellor and Chief Coroner.

The spokesman added: “We will still have the same number of assistant coroners and inquests will still be held right round the county. If an inquest would have been held in Barrow under the current system, then it will be held in Barrow under the new system.

“The central administration of the office would take place in Cockermouth.”

The council does not believe that any savings will be made as a result of the changes.

“Some of the high-profile inquests heard in recent years include the Derrick Bird shootings, Grayrigg train crash and Barrow Legionnaires deaths.

“The county council recognises the vital role the service provides and is confident that it will continue to do so under the new arrangements,” the spokesman said.

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