Help Our Bereaved Families

Having had to wait for just under a year for the inquest into the RTA death of my younger brother I am continually appalled when I hear that inquests into the death of service personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking up to FIVE YEARS to get under way. The effect upon families must be horrendous, in many ways. This delay is caused by the ludicrous law which states that inquests MUST be carried out by the coroner who covers the area of the country in which the deceased serviceman/woman arrives. So far all deceased service personnel have been landed at Brize Norton (and most recently) at Lyneham. It is my own opinion that this law should be changed but our mate Tony isn't predisposed to doing that, for some reason? I have, therefore, struggled somewhat to get them to accept a petition to the Prime Minister to get the law changed.

You can imagine the reception this got. It was refused after two appeals and accepted only after I complained personally to Number 10 that censorship was being applied to petitions which might be party politically embarassing. I was amazed when it was finally (after some 8 weeks) approved.

This petition is not, however, going to work without support on the scale of that given to the road charging petition of a couple of months ago. Since it is an apolitical petition and the ONLY people to benefit from its success are the relatives and families of deceased servicemen I do not consider it inappropriate to ask for your help.

Please use the link below to have a look at my petition and if you agree, sign it. Then, PLEASE, email the link to everybody in your email address book and ask them to do the same.

Thanking you in anticipation.
With the greatest respect,

Is moving the inquests a good idea? I understand that it may not be ideal. But one would hope that if they are all done in one place, that coroners court would have (or build up) a better understanding of the specific nuances of a miliary death which would be less understood by an inexperienced court that does not get too many of them through.

I would prefer to sign a petition that called for a greater number of coroners in Lyneham rather than spreading them all over the country.

I don't think you can blame Tony for this one as it is not something that he has direct control of.

I do hope your brothers case does come up so and you can get closure on what must be a trying time.

The Government has refused to give any further financial help to the Coroner who is dealing with the backlog. With regard to 'spreading them all over the country'. Why not? Why should a family living in, say, Edinburgh or Beaumaris have to travel to Wiltshire to attend an inquest. All Coroners are equally empowered and trained the same so where the inquest takes places is irrelevant. It is the appalling length of time that people are being made to wait before being allowed to get on with their devastated lives is the problem - remove the cause - remove the problem - remove the suffering.

Tony Blair - as the leader of our country - is entirely responsible for this. He could provide a solution today. As you say, enlarge the Coroners Office in Wiltshire (which he has refused to do) OR change the law. Both of these options are within his gift.
This has been debated recently on this site and I have a great deal of sympathy with your position. I will certainly sign the petition and would recommend that others do - although the decision is clearly theirs. Theoretical or quasi-political positions regarding the pronouncements of the Oxford coroner rather pale when faced with the real suffering of families such as yours.

My sincere condolences on the loss of your brother.

May I offer my condolences for the situation that you and your family now find yourselves in.
I have signed the petition, and will ask my friends to do the same.
I'm sure the timing of this announcement is pure coincidence, coming as it does after the release of todays sad news, following yesterdays equally sad event.

Government News Network
Thursday 7 June 2007 12:53
Ministry Of Defence (National)

MOD announces enhanced support for bereaved miltary families

In a joint statement today the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Ministry of Justice outlined recent improvements made in the support given to the families of service personnel killed on operations and their plans for further enhancements.

In a bid to help the families of Scottish personnel, the MoD has written to the Scottish Executive to explore whether fatal accident inquiries, the nearest equivalent to inquests in Scotland, can take place into the deaths of Scottish Servicemen killed abroad. Under current Scottish law there is no provision for fatal accident inquiries into any deaths occurring outside of Scotland. This required Scottish families having to make long journeys into England to hear inquests into the death of their loved ones.

The MoD has also made a number of improvements to the support it gives to all bereaved families.

The number of family members who receive travel and accommodation expenses to attend repatriation ceremonies has been increased from five to seven. Two family members are able to reclaim the costs of their attendance at pre-inquest hearings. Funding is already provided for two family members wishing to attend the full inquest.

The tax free funeral grant offered to families who wish to hold a private funeral service has also been increased by £1,000 so that it ranges between £2,190 and £2,760.

Should the family wish to hold a Service funeral, arrangements and funding are provided by the MoD. A further tax free grant of £500 will be introduced for the next of kin to meet any personal costs they may occur as a result of their bereavement.

Adam Ingram, Armed Forces Minister, said:

"I hope that the law can be changed to allow fatal accident inquiries for Scottish service personnel killed abroad to be held in Scotland. This will make it easier for the families and friends of those killed to understand the circumstances of their loved ones death.

"We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all our Service personnel who have died on operations and we will continue to provide the best possible support to their loved ones."
Notwithstanding the 02 tag on the poster, this petition had some merit to my mind and received the following response:

The Government cannot pay high enough tribute to the job UK Service personnel are doing, and the sacrifice some of them have made. They have put their lives on the line to protect the interests of the United Kingdom and to help build strong, stable and democratic nations. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to all our Service personnel who have died on operations and we will continue to provide our best possible support to their families through very difficult times.

Each death of a serviceman or woman who dies overseas, and whose body is brought home to England and Wales, is subject to an inquest. The inquest -- both the investigation into the death and the holding of the public hearing into the death -- is conducted by the coroner who has jurisdiction, which derives from where the body lies. Before 1 April 2007 most bodies of servicemen and women came home to RAF Brize Norton in the Oxfordshire coroner's jurisdiction. Brize Norton is currently unavailable for repatriation ceremonies due to refurbishment of the airbase, and since 1 April bodies have come to RAF Lyneham in the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner's jurisdiction.

A Military Visiting Officer is appointed by the relevant Service to help the family cope with bereavement. The role of Military Visiting Officers is crucial in providing the liaison between families and the Services. They are there for the family as long as the family wishes. The Ministry of Defence continues to make improvements in the way they select and train Visiting Officers and to the guidance they give to help them as they provide practical support to families and help them prepare for the future.

The Ministry of Defence has recently increased from five to seven the number of family members eligible to receive travel and accommodation at public expense to attend the repatriation ceremony at Brize Norton/Lyneham. They also provide travel and accommodation for two family members to attend the inquest and any pre-inquest hearings.

Resources have been made available to the Oxfordshire coroner to deal with outstanding military inquests in his jurisdiction. He was able to appoint three extra assistant deputy coroners, and three extra coroner's officers and one extra member of support staff were also provided for this specific purpose.

On 4 December last year Government ministers met a group of bereaved service families whose inquests had been completed, and families at the meeting expressed the wish for a more local inquest. In response to this, since late December the practice of the Oxfordshire coroner was to transfer single death inquests to the "home" coroner's jurisdiction. This is likely to be continued by the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner, and we do not expect any build-up of military inquests in the Wiltshire and Swindon coroner's jurisdiction.

So, while there are no plans to change coroner law in the specific way Mr Jones asks, we fully understand the wish of bereaved service families for an inquest as near to home as possible, and a system is in place under existing coroner law for transferring single death inquests to the "home" coroner's jurisdiction. Where the inquest cannot be held near to home, travel and accommodation is provided for two family members to attend the inquest.

link My bold.

So good news, I think.

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