Proposed amendments to the Coroners Bill 2010
26 Apr 2010 Posted in Press releases
- Standalone Act
The provisions on Coroner’s Inquiries are currently found in the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC). The proposal to have this Bill arose out of the review of the CPC.
Other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, New Zealand and Australia have enacted standalone Acts.
The aim of the proposed changes is to update our coronial system and more clearly define its role so that it can better serve the public interest.
- Fault-Finding to Fact-Finding Inquiry
- Currently, the Coroner’s Inquiry is quasi-criminal in nature. He investigates the cause and circumstances of certain deaths, but also identifies those who may be criminally responsible .
- Ultimately, it is the Public Prosecutor (PP) who decides whether or not to prosecute a person. There is therefore no need for the Coroner to come to any conclusion on criminal responsibility in a Coroner’s Inquiry. The PP will take cognisance of the Coroner’s findings in so deciding.
- The Bill proposes to move the Coroner’s Inquiry away from a fault-finding regime toward a fact-finding one. The Coroner will focus on ascertaining the facts and circumstances behind a death, instead of apportioning blame.
- Legal responsibility is best decided by the criminal and civil courts, or by disciplinary tribunals.
- Other jurisdictions such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong have adopted a fact-finding regime .
- Widening of Technical Expertise
- Coroner’s Inquiries into cases of medical negligence may be hampered by the investigators’ and the Coroner’s lack of technical or medical expertise.
- The new Act allows the Coroner or PP, if he considers appropriate to do so, to direct a forensic pathologist to assist in investigations.
- The Coroner may, if he considers it appropriate to do so, appoint up to two assessors with skill and experience in the matter to which the inquiry relates to assist him in the hearing of any inquiry.
- To facilitate investigations and any subsequent inquiry, a duty will be imposed on persons in charge of hospitals, clinics or places of official custody to preserve the deceased’s medical and healthcare records. Failure to do so, without reasonable excuse, will be an offence.
- Coroner’s Jurisdiction
- The Bill will clarify the delineation of the Coroner’s jurisdiction.
- Currently, the Coroner’s jurisdiction only covers deaths where the body is found in Singapore or the death occurred in Singapore. The Coroner’s jurisdiction will be extended to cover deaths where the cause of death occurred not onlyin Singapore but alsoon board a Singapore-registered aircraft or vessel.
- The Bill also proposes that Coroner’s Inquiries be mandatory for the majority cases of reportable deaths but discretionary for other residual cases of reportable deaths. This will result in a more efficient use of resources and better serve the public interest.
- The Bill will specify where inquiries are mandatory: these would be deaths caused by unlawful acts or omission, deaths by unknown causes, deaths of persons whose identities are unknown, deaths from law enforcement operations, deaths in suspicious circumstances, deaths in official custody, medical-related deaths, deaths involving a public vehicle or commercial transport vehicle and deaths in any workplace or as a result of any accident at a workplace.
- In other residual cases of reportable deaths, the Coroner has the discretion to decide whether a public inquiry is needed. In exercising his discretion, the Coroner would take into account a range of factors. These would be : whether the death occurred outside Singapore; whether an inquiry has been or is to be conducted outside of Singapore; the action or inaction of any other person where death appears to have been unnatural or violent; the extent to which the drawing of attention to the circumstances of the death may be likely to reduce the chances of the occurrence of other deaths in similar circumstances; whether any member of the immediate family of the deceased desires an inquiry; and any other matters the Coroner thinks fit .
- Where no inquiry is held, a Certificate of Cause of Death would still be issued. The PP would still retain the power to order a Coroner’s Inquiry if one was not held. All cases of reportable death would still be investigated by the Police.
Last updated on 26 Nov 2012