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Last Updated: Monday, 5 June 2006, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Iraq inquest coroner promised aid
A coroner tackling the backlog of inquests on UK military fatalities in Iraq is to be given more help.

The government has freed up extra resources to allow 30 inquests to be completed by the end of the year.

Three assistant deputy coroners as well as two extra coroner's officers are to be made available to Oxfordshire coroner Nicholas Gardiner.

There are 59 outstanding inquests on personnel whose bodies have been flown into RAF Brize Norton.

Families kept informed

Constitutional Affairs Minister Harriet Harman said in a written ministerial statement that the extra staff should allow some 30 service personnel inquests to be completed by the end of the year.

These are cases where the Ministry of Defence has completed its inquiries and case papers have been prepared.

In addition, three inquests into civilian deaths - eleven are outstanding - should also be finished by the end of 2006.

The government has faced criticism over delays to inquests from the families of some of the war dead and opposition parties.

Ms Harman said that the extra personnel would also help keep families informed on the progress of the inquiries.

She said: "It is of the greatest importance that the next of kin have full information about the progress on the inquest of their deceased next of kin.

"The extra coroner resources will enable this to happen, in addition to the normal liaison between the Ministry of Defence and the families concerned."

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