Sunderland coroner given prestigious new national role

Sunderland coroner Derek Winter.
Sunderland coroner Derek Winter.

Sunderland's senior coroner Derek Winter has been appointed as a deputy chief coroner of England and Wales.

As Sunderland coroner, Mr Winter oversees investigations/inquests into violent or, unnatural deaths, unknown causes of death and those who die in state detention as well as inquiries into cases of treasure.

Sunderland coroner Derek Winter.

Sunderland coroner Derek Winter.

The announcement on his national appointment was been made by the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor, the country's two most senior legal officials.

Mr Winter's post runs alongside his Sunderland appointment.

It involves him supporting the Chief Coroner of England and Wales His Honour Judge (HHJ) Mark Lucraft QC, (a Senior Circuit Judge) in his responsibility for the coroner service and to provide national leadership following the most recent reforms in 2013.

Mr Winter is now one of two new deputy chief coroners, the other appointment is HHJ Alexia Durran who currently sits at Guildford Crown Court.

Mr Winter, who qualified as a solicitor in 1983 and began his career practising family law, said: "It's already a great honour to be serving the people of Sunderland as their coroner.

"It's now a very great privilege and I am very proud to have been appointed as one of two of the first ever national Deputy Chief Coroners.

"The appointment is wider recognition for the experienced team of coroners officers, staff, assistant coroners and the Coroners Court Support service volunteers we have here in Sunderland and for the public service that we provide.

"For some time now we have followed the concept from the Chief Coroner of his model coroner area co-locating our services with the city council's Bereavement and Registration services, and with the use of modern technology to put the bereaved at the heart of every death investigation.

"We have hosted visits from other coroner areas who wish to follow our example and I am extremely proud of all that we have achieved and for the recognition that in Sunderland we work tirelessly to look after people."

"I will be continuing my duties here in Sunderland, and continue to be based in the Civic Centre although from time to time my new post will naturally require some presence in London at the Royal Courts of Justice."

The role of the Deputy Chief Coroner involves:

• representing the office of Chief Coroner, and by extension the wider judiciary, to a wide-range of audiences, including at high-levels within government;

• work alongside officials from the Chief Coroner's Office and the Chief Coroner to deal with a range of policy issues, particularly on nationally important policy topics concerning coroners, coroner law and death certification;

• involved in coroner and coroners officer training, both in design and delivery;

• invited by the Chief Coroner to undertake judicial decision-making typically related to the statutory powers of the Chief Coroner in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009;

• work in collaboration with the Chief Coroner's office, a team of civil servants, who provide high-level policy, operational and legal advice as well as administrative support, and with the wider Judicial Office;

• In some limited circumstances, a Deputy Chief Coroner may be invited by the Chief Coroner or Lord Chief Justice to undertake a high-profile or complex inquest.

The chief coroner is a central point of contact in the event of mass fatalities (at home or abroad) and plays a co-ordinating role throughout the coroner process.

The deputy chief coroner will be expected to play a full part in the preparedness and response to any mass fatality incident.

Deputy chief coroners support the role of the chief coroner in his wide range of duties and provide adequate cover during periods of annual leave or other absence.