Justice Minister says merger of coroner areas in North Yorkshire will benefit grieving families

The merger of three coroner areas in Yorkshire will be beneficial to grieving families, the Justice Minister has said as legislation to approve the move was laid down in Parliament.

The merger will come into force on April 1 and will create a new coroner area, to be known as North Yorkshire and York, which will expect to deal with 1,820 deaths reported annually.

The two local authorities concerned, North Yorkshire County Council and the City of York Council; and North Yorkshire Police, which provides the three current coroner areas with coroner’s investigating officers, are said to be supportive of the merger.

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Jonathan Heath was appointed as senior coroner for all three coroner areas in September 2020 and will continue the role for the merged area alongside a part-time area coroner and assistant coroners.

County Hall in Northallerton where some of Yorkshire's inquests are heard.

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The idea was first suggested in 2019 as the then Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC, held the “very clear view” that larger coronial areas are more effective, allowing a senior coroner to manage work effectively, giving support staff the opportunity to work as part of a wider team providing enhanced support, resilience and a consistent service for relatives.

Historically in North Yorkshire the coroner areas were divided into three: North Yorkshire East (Scarborough, Ryedale and Hambleton); North Yorkshire West (Richmondshire, Craven, Selby and Harrogate) and York. Each area had a part-time senior coroner, in different offices but all three part-time senior coroners retired leading to the appointment of Mr Heath.