News Item

May 2012

Uptake of Coroners' recommendations to be investigated

A major new study will examine whether Coroners’ recommendations are being acted on and helping save lives.

Otago University researchers Professor Mark Henaghan and Dr Jennifer Moore will review all Coroners’ findings and recommendations between 2006 and 2011 and interview around 60 agencies and organisations to determine how much they take notice of the findings.

The New Zealand Law Foundation-funded study is commencing as Coroners express frustration that their recommendations are not being followed up. Chief Coroner Neil McLean has reportedly urged the Government to look at making it compulsory for relevant agencies to consider Coroners’ recommendations, as happens in some other countries.

Jennifer Moore says there is a pressing and overdue need for good information on how Coroners’ recommendations are being implemented.

“A common refrain of those who have lost family members is that they want the coronial system to ensure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” she says.

“Coroners have said that agencies are failing to take their recommendations seriously, but are all their recommendations possible to implement? Should mandatory follow-up be part of New Zealand law? Any such law reform must be evidence-based, not anecdotal.”

The Otago University project will work in collaboration with Coronial Services, and will take account of overseas experience, including a similar research project in Victoria, Australia, where there is mandatory follow-up of Coroners’ findings.

This work is relevant and topical. It is an important project that will fill a vital knowledge gap in our legal and public health system.

The Law Foundation is providing funding of $137,861 for this project.