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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 July, 2003, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
Coroner welcomes inquiry into wait
The Teesside coroner Michael Sheffield has said he welcomes a top-level inquiry into his work.

The news comes after it was revealed that bereaved relatives on Teesside face a wait of almost double the national average for an inquest to be completed.

Mr Sheffield is thought to have a current backlog of about 200 cases, taking about 35 weeks before being heard, compared with 18 weeks nationally.

Some bereaved families have complained of waiting over two years before their case was dealt with.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, announced he was launching an investigation into Mr Sheffield, following a campaign by local MPs.

Case backlog

On Tuesday Mr Sheffield, HM Coroner for Teesside, said: "I do welcome an inquiry being made.

"I hope that the terms of the inquiry will enable the cause of the backlog of inquests to be inquired into."

He said he had given a draft plan to the Home Office and Cleveland Police, showing how the outstanding cases can be prepared by the coroners officers and heard by him within an acceptable period of time.

MPs Vera Baird, Ashok Kumar, Stuart Bell, Dari Taylor and Frank Cook had all written to Lord Falconer expressing their concerns about the case backlog.

In a statement last week, the Department for Constitutional Affairs said: "Concerns about delays in hearing inquests in the Teesside area have been brought to the Lord Chancellor's attention."

"Consequently, the Lord Chancellor has decided to invite the Lord Chief Justice to nominate a judge to carry out an investigation into the conduct of Michael Sheffield, HM Coroner for Teesside."

Inquiry into inquest backlog
25 Jul 03  |  Tees

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