Plan to cut agonising waits for inquests for Wigan families

Plans are being drawn up to create a larger coroner’s court so more people can attend inquests looking into the deaths of their loved ones - and shorten an agonising backlog of cases for the bereaved.

There are currently two courtrooms at Bolton Coroner’s Court, which hosts inquiries into the deaths of people from Wigan, Bolton and Salford.

But coronavirus restrictions, including the need for social distancing, mean there is a limit on the number of people who can attend.

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This has led to inquests requiring juries or those with larger numbers of people in attendance, including relatives, witnesses and legal professionals, being pushed back to 2022.

Bolton Coroner's Court

It creates a lengthy wait for families who want to know what happened and find a sense of closure.

Now, there are proposals to create a larger courtroom at Paderborn House in Bolton town centre, where the court is based.

That would have space for more people to attend, but would not be ready until the spring. A spokesman for Bolton Council, which is the lead authority responsible for the Manchester West Coroner’s Office, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic presented a significant challenge for a number of public services tasked with keeping to national safety guidelines and capacity limits.

“This is especially true of jury inquests or inquests where a large number of people are required to attend.

“We are working with our estates team to address these challenges and create a larger, well-ventilated space where inquests can take place safely.

“We fully understand the frustration and upset that any delay in the inquest process can cause and would like to thank everyone for their continued patience.”

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Senior coroner Timothy Brennand has previously spoken about the situation during a number of pre-inquest reviews looking at the deaths of people from Wigan.

An inquest was due to begin this month into the death of 14-year-old Leo Gradwell, from Platt Bridge, who was fatally injured in a car crash in 2019 while being pursued by police.

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Mr Brennand had inquired whether the hearing could tale place in the Nightingale Court at the University of Bolton Stadium, but this had already been booked until March, and there was no availability at other courts.

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He had also looked into private centres and conference venues, but none could provide all the facilities needed for an inquest to go ahead.

He said there was no option but to delay the inquest until next year, when it was hoped the new courtroom would be ready.

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