Under the Coroners Act 2003 (the Act), coroners are responsible for investigating reportable deaths that occur in Queensland. Reportable deaths include those that are unnatural, such as accidents, suicides or homicides, deaths that have occurred in prison or in care or have unknown causes.
The coroner's primary responsibility is to make formal findings in respect of the death, namely who, when, where and how the death occurred and what caused the death. The coroner also has an overarching role to identify whether the death could have been prevented and if so, to examine opportunities for future death prevention. This may include policy or procedural changes to improve public safety or the administration of justice.
In Queensland, the coronial system’s efficiency and effectiveness relies on services from multiple stakeholders. The Queensland Police Service's Coronial Support Unit assists coronial investigations, Queensland Health's Forensic and Scientific Services provide coronial autopsy and clinical advisory services and the Department of Justice and Attorney-General's Court Services provide legal and administrative support.
Since 2007–08, the number of deaths reported to the coroner for investigation have increased by 50 per cent, from 3 514 to 5 287 in 2015–16. Demand for Queensland's coronial services is likely to increase with the states growing and aging population. Delays and inefficiencies to coronial investigations can impact families and loved ones seeking closure and add unnecessary cost to the state. A failure to act on coroner recommendations can potentially put lives at risk.
This audit assesses whether agencies are effective and efficient in supporting coroners to investigate and help prevent deaths. It examines whether agencies support the coroner to conduct efficient and effective coronial investigations and whether agencies plan effectively to deliver sustainable coronial services.
Who we audited
The Department of Justice and Attorney-General, Department of Health, and Queensland Police Service.
Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee