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Written Answers - Road Traffic Fatalities

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 451.  Deputy Thomas P. Broughan Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  if, in the context of a parliamentary question reply from May 2011 which asked for him to outline the legal basis for withholding the Garda abstract report, copies of statements of witnesses, sketches and maps of the scene from families who have lost a loved one in a fatal road collision until after the Coroner’s inquest has been heard and his subsequent reply that should it become apparent to him that such documentation is not as a general rule being released to families he will give consideration to the enactment of legislation on the matter, he has carried out an examination of the availability of these documents to bereaved families and is preparing legislation to facilitate same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16116/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter The Deputy will be aware that Coroners are independent in their functions with responsibility, under the Coroners Act 1962, for the medicolegal investigation of the circumstances of sudden, unexplained, violent and unnatural deaths. I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is the responsibility of An Garda Síochána to provide the Coroner with all statements and evidence in relation to such deaths.

I am advised that, in the absence of expressed legal provisions, in the case of fatal road traffic collisions it is Garda policy that abstract reports are not provided until the inquest concerning the death has been completed by the Coroner. I am further informed that this policy is in place as disclosure of information by the Garda authorities in advance of the coroner’s inquest may have an adverse impact on the ability of the Coroner to perform his/her statutory functions effectively. In circumstances where criminal proceedings are contemplated or have been initiated the Garda authorities will seek to adjourn the Coroners inquest until the criminal proceedings are completed.

[892]I assume that the Deputy’s question arises in the context of a particular case which he raised previously. I understand that the Coroner, having regard to the circumstances involved in a particular case and the requirement for fair procedures, has discretion with regard to disclosure of particular documentation to families prior to inquest.

In relation to the wider question of the availability of such documentation generally, I am, in line with my previous answer to the Deputy, keeping this matter under review.

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