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NCJ Number: 201602 Find in a Library
Title: Coroners and Mass Disasters: Issues, Plans and Responses
Journal: Judicial Officers' Bulletin  Volume:14  Issue:10  Dated:November 2002  Pages:75-78,82
Author(s): Alison M. Thompson
Date Published: November 2002
Page Count: 5
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: This discussion of the responsibilities of British coroners relative to mass disasters encompasses legal mandates, procedural issues, emergency planning, lessons from September 11th, legislative reform, and issues in overseas disasters.
Abstract: The two fundamental tasks of coroners in the aftermath of mass disasters are identification and inquiry. These tasks involve complex legal, procedural, scientific, communication, and management issues. These issues are even more complex when the mass disaster occurs overseas (coroners' jurisdiction extends to the bodies of persons who have died abroad but who are returned to the district). There is a statutory duty imposed on coroners to hold an inquest when there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the death is violent, unnatural, or sudden and of unknown cause. Once an inquest has been opened and identification is certain, the body can be released. The inquest is then adjourned for further inquiries, a criminal prosecution, or a public inquiry (most major disasters). A jury is required in certain cases. Only verdicts of unlawful killing and suicide require proof beyond reasonable doubt; otherwise, proof on the balance of probabilities is sufficient. In major disasters, the coroner is responsible for all decisions that are made in relation to the body from the moment death is pronounced to the time of release to the next of kin. It is for the coroner, in consultation with the supervising pathologist and the police, to select the appropriate premises for a disaster mortuary. Current legislation concerning the responsibility for the provision and equipping of disaster mortuaries is inadequate and requires amendment. This article draws lessons for the work of the coroner from the events and aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. These lessons pertain to the initial response; recovery, identification, and certification; and DNA profiling. Legislative reforms are outlined for both national disasters and overseas disasters. 6 notes
Main Term(s): Domestic Preparedness
Index Term(s): Coroners; Death investigations; Disaster procedures; Disaster related crimes; Emergency procedures; Victim identification
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