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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 11:57 GMT 12:57 UK
MPs call for coroner to be sacked
A coroner responsible for an alleged backlog of inquests should be sacked, a group of MPs has said.

Latest figures show Teesside Coroner Michael Sheffield has yet to complete 209 inquests - 47 of which have been outstanding for at least six months.

Last year, the Lord Chancellor severely reprimanded the 75-year-old coroner following an investigation.

Local MPs working for grieving families have called for Mr Sheffield to be fired over the situation.

Being reprimanded has bounced off him and the situation is just as bad as it always was
Vera Baird MP

In 2004, the Lord Chancellor severely reprimanded Mr Sheffield following a probe by a circuit judge into how he handled cases. His progress was to be monitored for 12 months.

Vera Baird, a Queen's Counsel and Labour MP for Redcar, wrote to the Lord Chancellor claiming the coroner's working practices had not changed.

"The situation continues to be that the people of Teesside are getting abysmal service from this coroner," the letter said.

Fellow Labour MPs Frank Cook (Stockton North) and Dari Taylor (Stockton South) have backed her calls for the coroner to be sacked.

'Grieve properly'

Ms Baird added: "Being reprimanded has bounced off him and the situation is just as bad as it always was.

"Now we have written a letter suggesting to the Lord Chancellor that he must look at the situation again, and the only possible outcome is for Mr Sheffield to be removed."

She said she had received calls for help from constituents, whose families were affected by the backlog.

She said: "They were unable to get closure, unable to grieve properly for a loved one because a year or more after a death, which was likely to have been sudden, they have no more information about what happened to them."

A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor said: "We are working closely with the Coroner's Office to continue these updates and the Lord Chancellor will, at a given point, give the matter further consideration."

The spokesman said Mr Sheffield was carrying out an average of 25 inquests per month last year, and this had increased to 30 per month in 2005.

Mr Sheffield was on holiday this week but his solicitor said a response to the MPs' criticism was being prepared.

Inquiry into inquest backlog
25 Jul 03 |  Tees

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