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Last Updated: Friday, 26 January 2007, 12:40 GMT
Iraq inquests backlog continues
Repatriation at RAF Brize Norton
Most personnel are repatriated through RAF Brize Norton
Inquests are still to be held into the deaths of more than a third of British soldiers killed in Iraq, figures show.

Some 130 personnel have been killed since military operations began in 2003, but inquests into 46 deaths have not taken place.

The majority of bodies are flown back to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and the county's coroner handles the cases.

Three new coroners were appointed last year after pressure from families, and the backlog has since been reduced.

A total of 17 outstanding inquests relate to deaths more than a year ago.

The figures also show there are 38 inquests yet to be held into the deaths of service personnel in Afghanistan over the last year.

The majority of the 46 deaths in operations there since 2001 took place after March 2006.

Extra resources

In a written ministerial statement in December, Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet Harman outlined the extra resources allocated to the Oxfordshire county coroner to speed up cases identified in June.

The government had appointed three new deputy coroners and two coroner's officers for Oxfordshire.

She also said she had met 17 bereaved relatives to get their views on the inquest system.

As a result, she said, the government would provide better information to families about how inquests work, allow them more access to material relevant to their case and hold inquests nearer to where relatives live.

The jurisdiction for the inquest arises where the body is kept and once an inquest has been opened it is not possible for it to be transferred.

Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner said there was nothing holding back the process apart from the sheer number of cases.

"Now that the Department of Constitutional Affairs has provided us with the resources, all the cases which were identified last June will be completed by May," he said.

He confirmed that since October some new cases had been transferred to "hometown coroners" - that is, towns closer to where relatives live.


SEE ALSO
Iraq inquest coroner promised aid
05 Jun 06 |  Oxfordshire

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