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Job vacancy: Assistant Coroner, Gateshead and South Tyneside Coroner Area

Contents

  1. Overview
  2. About the post
  3. Who can apply
  4. How to apply
  5. Coroner Service information
  6. Job summary
  7. Summary of terms and conditions
  8. Recruitment and selection process
  9. Recruitment timetable

Overview

South Tyneside Council is seeking to appoint a new Assistant Coroner to support the Coroner across the full range of ad hoc coroner duties in the busy coronial jurisdiction covering the Districts of Gateshead and South Tyneside in order to deliver a high-quality coroner service to the culturally diverse communities of Gateshead and South Tyneside.

SalaryFee paid, £472 per day in line with the JNC Coroners Circular 63
Closing date30 April 2021

To download and print the information on this page: Assistant Coroner job vacancy candidate pack83.85KB

This recruitment pack has been drafted in accordance with the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

Notification

The vacancy for this post has been notified to the Chief Coroner and Lord Chancellor (as required by statute).

Statutory terms of the appointment

Once a Coroner is appointed they are then a Judicial Office holder until they reach the age of 70 years (compulsory retirement age) unless they choose to resign or are removed by the Lord Chief Justice or Lord Chancellor prior to their 70th birthday. 

About the post

South Tyneside Council is looking for an exceptional candidate with excellent proven organisational, management and efficiency skills, as well as experience of exercising sound judgement and communicating effectively. You will work closely with the Senior Coroner to ensure value for money, performance and financial efficiencies.

You will be required to demonstrate knowledge and experience of coroner law and of basic medicine, have proven skills in conducting investigations and an understanding of court procedure. You will also need to demonstrate the excellent communication and interpersonal skills necessary to deal with sensitive situations. 

The successful candidate will be required to carry out the duties and responsibilities of a coroner as defined in the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and associated rules and regulations and as further described in various guidance issued by the Chief Coroner.

These are fee paid positions although they are likely to involve a regular commitment, which is to be agreed between the assistant coroner, senior coroner and the local authority. You will be expected on occasion to be available to assist on an out of hours rota system.  

It is a Coroner's personal responsibility (and not that of his/her clerk/secretary) to ensure that they sit when possible.  The Chief Coroner and the Lord Chancellor would expect an assistant coroner to offer a minimum of 15 - 20 sitting days each financial year.  However, it is recognised that there is a variance of workload in each area.

Who can apply

The successful candidate will be a barrister or a solicitor or Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives and satisfy the judicial-appointment eligibility condition which means they will have 5 years of experience whilst holding that qualification. They will be under the age of 70 and be subject to the appointment and eligibility conditions within the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (s.23 and Schedule 3).

How to apply

If you wish to have an informal discussion or arrange a visit, please contact Megs Dowling, PA to HM Senior Coroner on 0191 483 8771.

Suitably qualified applicants are requested to email their CV and supporting statement to Nicola Robason - Head of Corporate and External Affairs (Monitoring Officer) at South Tyneside Council: nicola.robason@southtyneside.gov.uk

Coroner Service information

Area information

The Gateshead and South Tyneside coroner area includes an area of 80 square miles with a current population of around 352,000. 10% of the population are currently 65+.  

The number of deaths registered annually is around 4000 with approximately 2000 cases referred to the senior coroner.  Post mortem examinations are conducted at Mortuary facilities across the Gateshead Health NHS and South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundations Trusts by hospital pathologists. In 2018, 280 inquests were held and 638 post-mortem examinations. There has been 45% more deaths and death inquiries since this time period in 2019 with 1777 registered deaths within the Coroners Officer in 2019 and 299 Inquests. The 2020 figures are, understandably distorted by Covid, at 3383 deaths and 230 Inquests. The Coroners Office does have a current backlog of cases at 168 as opposed to a more usual figure of 60, pending cases awaiting Inquests. 

As to the detail of the types Post mortem examinations available in the area, Forensic, Paediatric, Neuro, cardio and other specialist pathology services are available and utilised as required by the Jurisdiction and are centred on the Royal Victoria infirmary at Newcastle.  Scanning facilities as alternative to invasive Post Mortem are also available and utilised where required, again locally.

The Medical Examiner Services are being established and are developing within the NHS Trust Hospitals in Gateshead & South Tyneside. The office has had a close involvement in the planning development and some measure of training, particularly in the area of Medical Examiner Officers.     

The coroner area contains sections of the A1M motorway as well as several major A-roads, main rail lines to/from London and metro lines. 

There are two acute hospitals, well as several community hospitals, mental health facilities and community and care home facilities.

Daily operations and accommodation

The service is currently located in dedicated accommodation in Hebburn, South Tyneside. Work is ongoing to create brand new facilities for the coroner including a courtroom within South Shields Town Hall. The coroner's court, which is next to the coroner's offices, is available Monday-Friday allowing inquests to be opened quickly with dates set for inquest hearings, usually within the required six months. The average time from opening to hearing is currently 8weeks. 

Six coroner's officers (three full-time and three part-time) are employed by the Northumbria Police Authority and seconded to the Senior Coroner. The Senior Coroner and coroner's officers are supported by one administrative staff officer.

Accommodation, contracts, tendering, finance and support staff are managed by solicitors who are employed by the Council in the Legal Services Department. 

The administrative support staff are responsible for answering incoming calls from the public on weekdays 9am - 5pm.

Job summary

The role of the coroner

  • Coroners are independent judicial office holders. When made aware that a body or bodies of deceased persons lie within the coroner area, the coroner is responsible for conducting investigations and holding inquests when required (with or without a jury) into deaths to determine who the deceased was, when and where the deceased came by his or her death and how that death occurred. A referral is made to the coroner when there is reason to suspect that:
    • The deceased died a violent or unnatural death;
    • The cause of death is unknown; or                    
    • The deceased died while in custody or otherwise in state detention.
  • Conducting investigations of this kind will include where appropriate directing pathologists and others to determine these answers. Coroners also have a duty to produce Prevention of Future Death reports should an investigation give rise to concerns about future deaths occurring from the circumstances that caused the death. Coroners also deal with claims for treasure when required in accordance with statutory regulations and guidance.

Overview of the role of an Assistant Coroner

To support the Senior Coroner in providing a high-quality coroner service that puts the bereaved at the heart of the process.

This includes preparing for any significant emergencies which may occur and to be available to assist with 24-hour availability on a rota basis.

Role responsibilities and assessment criteria

Assimilating and clarifying information

As an assistant coroner you will be expected to be able to quickly assimilate information to identify essential issues, seeking clarification where necessary so a clear understanding of this information is gained. This will include possessing the ability to explain legal and medical terms to people from non-legal or non-medical backgrounds.

Assessment criteria: 

  • 1. Excellent analytical skills and a consistency of decision-making and administrative direction.
  • 2. Experience of legal work in the coroner jurisdiction (e.g. representing clients at inquest).
  • 3. The ability to explain complex terms to those from non-legal or non-medical backgrounds.

Managing work effectively

A large amount of coronial work takes place outside of the court setting and therefore assistant coroners are expected to work effectively both in the office and whilst conducting court hearings. They are required to run hearings efficiently to facilitate a fair conclusion, minimise delays and effectively deal with case management. Assistant coroners must respond calmly and flexibly to changing circumstances and prioritise work effectively to make the most of available resources whilst taking in to account any budgetary considerations as appropriate. Assistant coroners are committed to ensuring that any expenditure is reasonable and controlled and works to monitor this regularly with the senior coroner.

Assessment criteria:

  • 4. An ability to prioritise work effectively to minimise delays.
  • 5. Able to work at speed and under pressure.
  • 6. Demonstrates resilience responding calmly and flexibly to changing circumstances.

Working with others

An ability to work constructively with others whilst demonstrating an awareness of diversity and showing empathy and sensitivity in building relationships is required in this post. Assistant coroners must work constructively with members of the coronial team and interact well with bereaved families and external stakeholders (e.g. relatives, police officers, medical personnel, mortuary staff, Registrars, witnesses and the media). Where necessary they assist the senior coroner to engage with the local community, for example giving talks and seeking feedback and views.

Assessment criteria:

  • 7. Must have knowledge of the extent to which cultural and religious requirements can be met within the constraints of coroner law and practice.
  • 8. An ability to drive the service and be receptive to new ideas, reforms and diverse needs.
  • 9. Treats people with respect, sensitivity and in a fair manner without discrimination; ensuring the requirements of those with differing needs are properly met.

Communicating effectively

Assistant coroners must be excellent communicators. They must be sensitive and, as far as possible, responsive to the needs and requirements of those who engage with the coroner service and also possess the awareness to manage their expectations of the process. Assistant coroners must be IT literate and provide clear directions to staff on coroner investigations whilst creating a safe, harmonious and effective working environment through co-operative working.

Assessment criteria:

  • 10. Excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • 11. Establishes authority and inspires respect and confidence.
  • 12. Remains calm and authoritative even when challenged.

Exercising judgement

Assistant coroners must demonstrate integrity and apply independence of mind to make incisive, fair and legally sound decisions.

Assessment criteria: 

  • 13. Able to deal with emotionally charged situations that require sensitive handling and confident/positive judgement.
  • 14. Experience of conducting investigative enquiries including demonstrating clarity of thought in identifying issues relevant to the investigation.
  • 15. Reaches clear, reasoned decisions objectively, based on relevant law and findings of fact.

Possessing and building knowledge

It is the responsibility of the assistant coroner to keep an up-to-date working knowledge of coroner law, practice and guidance. Coroners must also undertake compulsory Judicial College and Chief Coroner training as appropriate. Assistant coroners should take part in any local training as appropriate. Assistant coroners are expected to take part in the on-going yearly assistant coroner appraisal scheme to build upon their knowledge and skills.  

Assessment criteria:

  • 16. All applicants must be a barrister or solicitor or Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives and satisfy the judicial-appointment eligibility condition which includes a requirement for the candidate to hold a relevant qualification, to have also gained experience in the law for a total period of at least 5 years whilst holding that qualification and be under the age of 70: paragraph 3 of Schedule 3.
  • 17. Thorough, up to date knowledge of legislation, case law and guidance relating to coroner's duties.
  • 18. Knowledge of structures and procedures of the police, in particular those relating to the investigation of sudden or suspicious deaths.
  • 19. Knowledge of the organisational structures of local government including an understanding of the challenges facing local government, both at present and in the future.

Desirable criteria

  • 20. Full current driving licence (unless disability precludes this) and use of a vehicle for work purposes.

Previous Coroner experience

If you have worked or currently work as a coroner it is important that you detail your coroner experience. Please can you confirm in your application the following:

  • (a) how many days worked as coroner;
  • (b) the nature of the work;
  • (c) the division of time between office and court;
  • (d) the extent of experience in completing Forms 100A and 100B;
  • (e) the number and type of inquests conducted;
  • (f) the number of long inquests and their subject matter; and
  • (g) the number of Jury inquests conducted.
  • (h) experience of digital case management system.

Summary of terms and conditions

The conditions of service applicable to the post are those set out in Schedule 3, Coroners and Justice Act 2009.  The Assistant Coroner holds office on whatever terms are from time to time agreed between the coroner and the relevant local authority.

The following section contains some general terms and conditions in relation to this post, the specifics of such terms should be agreed between the coroner and the local authority. Some general headings of terms and conditions for coroner posts is available upon request.

Fee

The post is fee paid and the current fee is £472 per day, in line with the JNC Coroners Circular 63.

Pension scheme

An Assistant Coroner may join the Local Government Pension Scheme (LPGS).

Hours of work

As these are fee paid positions the Assistant Coroner will work on days and times as agreed with the Senior Coroner.

You may be asked to participate in an out of hour's service, by agreement with the senior coroner. Assistant coroners should live within a reasonable commuting distance from the court or office they will be expected to attend.

Holiday entitlement

None (fee paid appointment).

Payment of expenses

Expenses will be paid in line with the Council's expenses policy. Reasonable expenses for attendance at Judicial Training (including travel expenses, accommodation where necessary and a normal sitting fee payable for each day of training) will be paid by the Local Authority.

Indemnity

The Council will indemnify the Assistant Coroner for costs or damages in relation to legal proceedings in accordance with Regulation 17 of The Coroners Allowances, Fees and Expenses Regulations 2013. 

Notice period

The Assistant Coroner may resign from office by giving notice in writing to the relevant authority, however the resignation does not take effect unless and until it is accepted by the authority.

Politically restricted post

This post is politically restricted under the terms of Schedule 3, paragraph 4 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.

The Guide to Judicial Conduct

The Assistant Coroner will comply with the standards as set out in the Guide to Judicial Conduct and other associated guidance.

Recruitment and selection process

Applications

To apply for this position, you are required to submit a CV, and a full supporting statement of up to two sides of A4 (no smaller than font 11). It is important that your supporting statement fully addresses the assessment criteria detailed in the job summary section above.

In particular please demonstrate how you meet the following criteria:

  1. Assimilating and clarifying information
  2. Managing work efficiently
  3. Working with others
  4. Communicating effectively
  5. Exercising judgement
  6. Possessing and Building Knowledge

If you do not complete a full supporting statement, your application will be rejected.  Please ensure you include your work, home and mobile contact numbers, home address and e-mail addresses where applicable.  Please note that correspondence will be via e-mail unless otherwise stated. All correspondence and details provided will remain confidential.

Employment references

Please include the name, address and contact details for two references. Candidates should also state their relationship to the referee and at least one should be your current/most recent employer/head of chambers/relevant authority. References will be taken up for short-listed candidates.

Evidence of qualifications

Candidates will be required to bring evidence of their qualifications to the interview.

Employment checks

The successful candidate will be required to undergo the Council's pre-appointment medical screening.

Eligibility to work in the UK

Candidates must be eligible to work in the UK. The successful candidate will be required to provide original evidence of their eligibility to work in the UK.

Disciplinary proceedings and criminal convictions check

Due to the nature of the post, it is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and therefore any conviction, whether spent or unspent, must be declared. All applicants will be required to complete a declaration form when they attend for interview.

The successful candidate will be required to undergo a DBS check.

Applicants must specify in their application if they are the subject of any complaint or disciplinary proceedings by any professional body to which they belong (including personal conduct referred to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office), and clearly state the salary or fee payable. Applicants will also be asked in interview to declare anything about themselves including in their past that might be an embarrassment to the Local Authority, the Chief Coroner or the Lord Chancellor particularly bearing in mind the basic set of guiding principles in the Guide to Judicial Conduct:

Judiciary: Guide to judicial conduct

Interview

You will be required to undertake a short presentation as part of the interview process.

Chief Coroner's role in the process

All appointments are subject to the consent of the Chief Coroner and the Lord Chancellor. The interview panel may include a representative from the Chief Coroner's Office.  

Once appointed a Coroner becomes and remains an independent judicial officer holder.

Recruitment timetable

Suitably qualified applicants are requested to email their CV and their application to: nicola.robason@southtyneside.gov.uk

Closing date30 April 2021
Interview invitations will be sent outw/c 3 May 2021
Interview datew/c 17 May 2021

If you do not hear by 7 May 2021, please assume you have not been shortlisted.

The interview panel will be:

  • Terence Carney - HM Senior Coroner
  • Nicola Robason - Head of Corporate and External Affairs (Monitoring Officer), South Tyneside Council
  • Ged Morton - Service Director, Legal & Democratic Services Corporate Services and Governance, Gateshead Council
  • Julie Young - Strategic HR Manager, South Tyneside Council

The interview panel may include also a representative from the Chief Coroner's Office.  

We are aiming for the successful candidate to take up post as quickly as possible.

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