My predecessor, Baroness Newlove, was approached by two bereaved victims of road collisions calling for a change in guidance to coroners in respect of considering requests by potential defendants to second post-mortems. These requests, and subsequent delays in families being able to bury their loved ones was very distressing. It was also clear that practice across the country in considering these requests was inconsistent.
Baroness Newlove and the two victims met with the Chief Coroner to press the case for change. This week he published new guidance. This explains that potential defendants do not have an automatic right to be allowed a second post-mortem. It provides guidance to coroners on the evidential basis for making such decisions (fully recognising there will be occasions when justice requires that a further examination of the body might be necessary) and sets a threshold where there are multiple defendants seeking multiple post-mortems. It restricts the window in which to make such a request to five days. I welcome this guidance, which recognises the anguish these requests cause to bereaved families, whilst at the same time, seeking to strike the right balance between the interests of all the parties.