Only 64 pending before Coroner’s Court
Attorney General of The Bahamas, Senator John Delaney disclosed yesterday that there are only 64 cases pending before the Coroner’s Court.
He said in this year alone, between January and November, some 229 cases were disposed off. Of that number, the attorney general said 211 of them were dealt with by inquiry, and 18 by inquest.
He explained that an inquiry is an investigation into a death which is opened and conducted by a coroner. An inquest is actually a formal, court-type proceeding where witnesses are called to determine how a person died and who is responsible, he explained.
According to him not every coroner’s court case requires a public inquest.
“The overwhelming majority of coroner’s court cases do not require a public inquest. In fact, as a rule of thumb only 10 percent of coroner’s court cases will require an inquest. And in fact the experience over the past year has been that 8.2 percent have required a public inquest,” he said while delivering his contribution in the Senate to the debate on amendments to the Coroners Bill.
Once the amendments have been passed, a coroner and a deputy coroner will be appointed to conduct inquiries and inquests into the deaths of persons who die mysteriously.
According to Senator Delaney these appointments will make the justice system more efficient.
This new bill will replace the legislation that came into force 100 years ago.
Under the new bill, the coroner would have the same powers as a magistrate. Delaney explained, however, that the work of the coroner is not to find someone guilty or not, or to find liability on the part of one person or the other. The coroner is just there to learn the facts, nothing more.
The bill is drafted in such a way that the role of a coroner’s inquest will now be clearly defined, and the power to make a finding of homicide will be removed from its jurisdiction.
The current act allows a coroner to charge someone with murder or manslaughter. The new bill will also reduce the size of the jury in the court to five instead of seven.
The new bill removes the possibility of establishing civil liability for negligence.
Itstates that a coroner is to conduct an inquiry for three purposes: To establish as far as possible the deceased’s identity and the circumstances surrounding the cause of his/her death; to make recommendations to draw the public’s attention to the death in order to reduce the chances of a recurrence of a similar death; and to determine whether the public’s interest would be served by the said death being investigated.