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Last Updated: Friday, 29 August, 2003, 10:13 GMT 11:13 UK
Inquiry into coroner to be 'private'
An inquiry into why there is a backlog of inquests waiting to be heard by Teesside coroner Michael Sheffield is to be conducted in private.

Bereaved relatives in the area face a wait of almost double the national average for an inquest to be completed.

Mr Sheffield is thought to have a backlog of about 200 cases, taking about 34 weeks before being heard, compared with about 20 weeks nationally.

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

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, announced in July he was starting an investigation into Mr Sheffield.

Now it has been revealed by the Department for Constitutional Affairs that the inquiry is to be carried out " in private" by a circuit judge, who it is not naming.

The decision has been criticised by relatives who were forced to wait for inquests to be heard, and fears that members of the public may not be able to put forward their points of view.

Mr Sheffield has said he welcomes the inquiry into his work.

Teesside 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.

Inquiry into inquest backlog
25 Jul 03  |  Tees

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