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New coroner's office to improve service in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 07:05 14 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:40 02 July 2010

Staff at their new offices on Thorpe Road, Norwich - home of the Coroners Office.

Staff at their new offices on Thorpe Road, Norwich - home of the Coroners Office.

David Bale

Staff at the new coroner's office in Norwich today pledged to make a very difficult process easier for families, thanks to better office facilities and more training for staff.

Staff at the new coroner's office in Norwich today pledged to make a very difficult process easier for families, thanks to better office facilities and more training for staff.

The new system of dealing with inquests in Norfolk started earlier this month with just one coroner having jurisdiction over the whole county.

William Armstrong, who has been a coroner for 15 years, is now HM Coroner for Norfolk, based at a newly established office in Thorpe Road, Norwich.

Mr Armstrong said his priority as coroner was to provide the best service for bereaved relatives of the deceased and the new offices in Thorpe Road, which will only be used for opening inquests, were designed to achieve that.

The coroner's office was previously based in Barrack Street, Norwich, but the building was cramped, had no reception, and was inadequate to cater for the needs of families of the bereaved.

Mr Armstrong said: “These new offices provide adequate rooms for bereaved relatives to have adequate discussions with coroner's officers. It's also a much better working environment for the staff.

“Having a coroner for the whole county will also help provide a better service and a consistency of approach throughout the whole county.

“I have renamed our operation, the Norfolk Coroner's Service, which better reflects what we now do.

“This is a service for the public and the priority is to provide a good professional service for those who have lost loved ones. The new facilities will also allow for better training facilities for staff.”

Coroners primarily investigate the circumstances of unnatural deaths and hold inquests to determine the cause of death.

Two new coroner's officers were appointed to replace the two previously based at Yarmouth, who left the Coroner's Service. These are working alongside three coroner's officers and an administrator based in Norwich and an officer based in King's Lynn.

Senior Coroner's Officer Lorraine Marshall, who heads the new team of officers, said: “These new offices are fit for purpose. It's created a better working environment and the open plan means that everyone is together now. We have also now got a proper reception.”

Mr Armstrong took on the coroner service for the Great Yarmouth area following the retirement of the former part-time coroner for the Great Yarmouth District, Keith Dowding.

The new system has also brought benefits including the ready availability of a full-time coroner and officers are available out of hours throughout the whole county.

The changes fit in with government plans to restructure coroners' service.

Norfolk's five coroner's districts were reduced to three in 2000 with the resignations of the Diss and Dereham coroners and in 2007 the King's Lynn coroner retired.

Do you have a story for the Evening News? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk

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