The Lord Chief Justice in consultation with the Lord Chancellor has appointed His Honour Judge Peter Thornton QC as the first Chief Coroner of England and Wales.
HHJ Peter Thornton QC will play a key role in setting new national standards in the coroner system. The Chief Coroner will develop a national framework within which coroners will operate, including rules and regulations, guidance and practice directions.
The Government wants to ensure inquests are timely and effective, and bereaved families are provided with the information and support they need throughout this emotionally difficult process.
The Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, said:
"I am delighted that HHJ Peter Thornton QC has accepted the responsibility to become the first Chief Coroner, which is part of our commitment to reforming the coroner system.
"Everyone is agreed that the priority is to ensure coroners provide a high standard of service at what can be a difficult time for bereaved families.
"I am therefore giving the Chief Coroner the full range of powers to drive up standards, including thorough coroner training, and to tackle delays within the system."
HHJ Peter Thornton QC will now start to familiarise himself with the workings of the coroner system and will formally commence his duties in September. He will also continue to sit in the Administrative Court to hear Judicial Reviews on coronial matters.
Responding to his appointment, Judge Peter Thornton QC, said:
"I welcome the challenges of this new post. The coroner system is of vital importance, both in identifying causes of death and in preventing future deaths. But with any ancient and well-respected system there is room for improvement and development.
"I also welcome the opportunity to oversee the many changes made by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 and to lead the coroner system into a positive future.
"I will aim to provide quality and uniformity in the coroner system, with a national consistency of approach and standards between coroner areas. Openness, inclusiveness, thoroughness and fairness must be at the heart of this process if it is to be effective and serve the needs of the public.
"I have huge respect for the work of coroners and their staff. I look forward to engaging with coroners and the Coroners' Society in all parts of the country and to discussing with interested groups the delivery of an improved service for the bereaved."
Notes to Editors
1. This appointment has been made under the provisions of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.
2. HHJ Peter Thornton QC is a Senior Circuit Judge at the Central Criminal Court (Old Bailey). Before then he was a practising Queen's Counsel and part-time judge as a Deputy High Court Judge and Recorder of the Crown Court. In 2011, as Assistant Deputy Coroner for the City of London, he conducted the inquest into the death of Ian Tomlinson who died at the time of the G20 protests in 2009.
3. HHJ Peter Thornton QC will take up the appointment on 17 September 2012.
4. A judge's first name is used in his title where, as in this case, there is more than one judge with the same surname.
5. The Chief Coroner will not be available for interviews at this time. Interviews will be considered on a case by case basis in due course.
6. Photographs of HHJ Peter Thornton QC are available from http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/the-chief-coroner
7. Media enquiries about the background, reform and policy of coroners (including the Chief Coroner) should be directed to the Ministry of Justice Press Office on 020 3334 3535.
8. Enquiries about the Chief Coroner, Judge Thornton should be directed to the Judicial Press Office on 020 7073 4852.