Coroner's Court of New South Wales

The Coroner's Court of New South Wales is the court in the Australian state of New South Wales where legal proceedings, in the form of an inquest or inquiry, are held and presided over by the State Coroner of New South Wales (or NSW State Coroner), a Deputy State Coroner of New South Wales, or another coroner of the state of New South Wales.

Coroner's Court of New South Wales
The façade of the NSW State Coroner's Court
Established1988
Location1A Main Avenue Lidcombe
Coordinates33°52′52″S 151°11′18″E
Composition methodVice-regal appointment upon Premier's nomination, following advice of the Attorney General and Cabinet
Authorized byParliament of New South Wales via the Coroners Act 2009 (NSW)
Appeals toSupreme Court of New South Wales
Judge term lengthmandatory retirement by age of 72
Websitecoroners.justice.nsw.gov.au
New South Wales State Coroner
CurrentlyMagistrate Teresa O'Sullivan
Since18 December 2018

Coroners must be magistrates in the state and sit in branches of the Local Court of New South Wales.[1] They hold jurisdiction over the remains of a person and have the power to make findings in respect of the cause of death of a person or the cause of any fire in New South Wales.

Generally, there are no appeals from the decision(s) of a coroner; but, there is provision for the Supreme Court of New South Wales to order a fresh inquest or inquiry or to grant prerogative relief in respect of the proceedings.

History

The office of coroner in New South Wales derives from the legal framework inherited from the historical origins of the state and, ultimately, the United Kingdom. Admiral Arthur Phillip, the first governor of the Colony of New South Wales, was authorised by the British monarch to appoint such officials as were necessary for the administration of justice in the colony. This authority came to Phillip through what is commonly called the "second commission". One of the offices that he could appoint was that of coroner.

In the early days of the colony, the role of the coroner was often performed by a justice of the peace. The first inquiry in the nature of a coronial inquest was conducted on 14 December 1788 and was presided over by Augustus Alt, one of the first justices of the peace appointed by Phillip.[2]

The office of the State Coroner of New South Wales was established in 1988,[3] prior to which the coronial system comprised a City Coroner, a Westmead Coroner (which was preceded by Parramatta, Penrith, and Campbelltown Coroners), and coroners in most New South Wales country towns.[4] After the discovery of asbestos in the file storage area of the Westmead Coroner's Court in 2007, the Westmead Coroner's Court was indefinitely closed.[5] An investigation was conducted following its closure. In 2008, the adjacent Westmead Morgue was closed, largely due to budgetary and sustainability concerns.[6][7]

The City (or State) Coroner's Court, Lidcombe is located at the Forensic Medicine and Coroners Court complex at 1A Main Avenue, Lidcombe 2141.[8][9]

Structure and jurisdiction

The Coroner's Court is in the state stream of the Australian court hierarchy, and its operation is defined by state legislation. Per the Coroners Act 2009 (NSW), the State Coroner and Deputy State Coroners are appointed to their office by the Governor of New South Wales and must be magistrates in New South Wales. The Governor may also appoint Coroners and Assistant Coroners, generally, from amongst registrars employed in the New South Wales court system so that coronial services are available in regional areas of New South Wales.

The State Coroner has the function:[10]

  • to oversee and coordinate coronial services in the state and to ensure that all deaths, suspected deaths, fires, and explosions over which a coroner has jurisdiction to hold an inquest or inquiry are properly investigated;
  • to ensure that an inquest or inquiry is held whenever it is required; and,
  • to issue guidelines to coroners to assist them in the exercise or performance of their functions.

Where a serious criminal offence has been disclosed during the course of an inquest or an inquiry, a coroner may terminate the proceedings and must refer that matter to a Director of Public Prosecutions (State or Commonwealth) for consideration of the initiation, or institution, of criminal proceedings.[11]

All magistrates in New South Wales are ex officio coroners by virtue of their appointment as magistrates.

List of State Coroners

Prior to the creation of the office of the State Coroner in 1988, coronial inquests were conducted by the Sydney City Coroner for greater metropolitan Sydney, and across New South Wales by magistrates in the Local Court as ex-officio coroners. The original Coroner's Court building was in George Street North, in The Rocks, Sydney. The Coroner's Court building and morgue moved to the current location at Glebe in the early 1970s.

TitleNameTerm beganTerm endedTime in officeNotes
Coroner for SydneyGeorge Milner Slade19 October 1821
Charles Thomas SmeathmanJanuary 183016 January 1835[12]
John Ryan Brenan3 February 18351856[13][14]
John Skottowe Parker28 May 185610 July 1866[14][15]
Henry Shiell4 August 186630 January 1889[16][17]
John Chadwick Woore31 January 188930 November 1903[17][18]
A. N. (Arthur Nelson) Barnett23 February 190431 July 1907[19][20]
J. L. King1 August 1907[20]
Stephen Murphy1 January 1909[21]
Henry Storry Hawkins20 November 191131 October 1919[22][23]
John Jamieson1 November 191917 June 1925[23][24]
Harry Ferdinand William Fletcher18 June 19256 May 1928[24][25]
Edwin Alfred May7 May 19287 August 1932[25][26]
Herbert Howell Farrington8 August 19324 January 1935[26][27]
Edward Thomas Oram7 January 193522 August 1943[28][29]
John Alexander Harris23 August 19437 January 1945[29][30]
Reginald Gordon Cookson8 January 19451 January 1946[30][31]
Roy Mitchell Stewart2 January 19461 June 1947[31][32]
James Byrne2 June 1947[33]
State CoronerKevin Waller AM198819923–4 years
Greg Glass199219952–3 years
Derrick Hand199520004–5 years[34]
John Abernethy200020076–7 years
Mary Jerram200720135–6 years
Michael Barnes6 January 201430 November 20173 years, 328 days
Leslie Mabbutt1 April 201814 December 2018257 days
Teresa O'Sullivan(acting) 15 December 201814 July 2019211 days[36]
15 July 2019current155 days

Notable inquests

See also

References

  1. The New South Wales Bar Association. (September 2007.) Court Structure, Judges' Titles, and Order of Seniority Archived March 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. McLaughlin, John Kennedy (1973). The Magistracy in New South Wales 1788–1850 (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2007. Retrieved 27 March 2007.
  3. "Coroners (Amendment) Bill 1988". New South Wales Government - NSW Legislation. 6 July 1988. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  4. Abernethy, John (2002). The Statutory Functions of the Coroner. The New South Wales Bar Association.
  5. Hayward, Andrea (27 February 2009). "Asbestos shuts Westmead Coroner's Court". Sydney Morning Herald.
  6. McDonald, Andrew (10 December 2008). "Re: Glebe and Westmead morgue" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 June 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  7. Lawrence, Kara; Sikora, Kate (3 July 2008). "Westmead morgue to shut: lack of staff to blame". Daily Telegraph.
  8. "Who works at a morgue?". Australian Museum.
  9. "Counselling services". Coroner's Court New South Wales. Archived from the original on 29 April 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  10. Coroners Act 2009 (NSW) s 10
  11. Coroners Act 2009 (NSW) s 78
  12. "Coroner's inquest". The Sydney Monitor. 4 January 1830. p. 2. Retrieved 13 June 2019 via National Library of Australia.
    "Family Notices". The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser. 17 January 1835. p. 2. Retrieved 13 June 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  13. "Mr John Ryan Brenan (1798-1868)". Former Members of the Parliament of New South Wales.
    "Appointment: Coroner". New South Wales Government Gazette (153). 4 February 1835. p. 78. Retrieved 13 June 2019 via National Library of Australia.
  14. "Coroners". New South Wales Government Gazette (Sydney, NSW : 1832 - 1900). 30 May 1856. p. 1545. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  15. "Family Notices". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 12 July 1866. p. 1. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  16. "Government Gazette". Sydney Mail (NSW : 1860 - 1871). 4 August 1866. p. 2. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  17. "Government Gazette". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 2 March 1889. p. 6. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  18. "The City Coroner". Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW : 1883 - 1930). 30 November 1903. p. 6. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  19. "Personal". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 24 February 1904. p. 10. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  20. "Personal". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 2 August 1907. p. 6. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  21. "Appointments". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 20 January 1909. p. 431. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  22. "Appointments". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 13 March 1912. p. 1785. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  23. "Special Gazette Under the "Public Service Act, 1902" Appointments". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 24 October 1919. p. 5899. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  24. "Coroner's Farewell". Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931). 16 June 1925. p. 7. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  25. "Special Gazette Under the "Public Service Act, 1902"". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 11 May 1928. p. 2117. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  26. "Special Gazette Under the "Public Service Act, 1902"". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 22 July 1932. p. 2475. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  27. "City Coroner". Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954). 5 January 1935. p. 17. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  28. "City Coroner Change". Labor Daily (Sydney, NSW : 1924 - 1938). 2 January 1935. p. 6. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  29. "Special Gazette Under the "Public Service Act, 1902"". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 18 June 1943. p. 1067. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  30. "Special Gazette Under the "Public Service Act, 1902"". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 26 January 1945. p. 181. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  31. "Special Gazette Under the "Public Service Act, 1902"". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 8 March 1946. p. 613. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  32. "Special Gazette Under the "Public Service Act, 1902" Appointments". Government Gazette of the State of New South Wales (Sydney, NSW : 1901 - 2001). 23 May 1947. p. 1251. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  33. Hannan, Liz (27 February 2000). "The case that took a coroner to the edge". Sun Herald.
  34. "Coroners". Coroner's Court. Government of New South Wales. 5 April 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  35. Community Relations Division (11 July 2019). "Magistrate O'Sullivan to be new State Coroner". www.justice.nsw.gov.au. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  36. Gregory, C. A. (2000). "Mackay, Donald Bruce (1933–1977)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  37. Inquest findings into the disappearance and suspected death of Christopher Dale Flannery, New South Wales Government, 1997
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