Coroner Inquests

28 January 2014

Furthering ASLEF’s aim for train drivers involved in fatal incidents on the railway not to be compelled to attend inquests to give evidence, general secretary Mick Whelan met the Chief Coroner of England and Wales, Peter Thornton, in December.

Drivers have frequently raised the issue of being compelled to attend inquests into fatalities, usually suicides, in which they are involved while at work. ASLEF reps have spent much time and effort negotiating rehabilitation policies for drivers involved in such incidents and all the help they receive can be undermined by having to give evidence in open court. It runs the risk of reopening old psychological wounds because of the long delays in holding a formal inquest.

The union believes that where there is no question about the driver’s role they should not be compelled to attend; instead coroners instead would consider written evidence from the driver, read aloud by a court official.

Mick said: ‘Mr Thornton was surprisingly well briefed before we met and very sympathetic to our concerns.He said it was his aim to hold all inquests within three months of a person’s death and he was not averse to our members not attending inquests. He said he could do nothing on the media naming drivers as inquests are statutory public hearings and the press are allowed to attend. The Chief Coroner said he will discuss the issues I raised with his colleagues before responding formally.’

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