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Coroner merger complete

Two Devon coroners offices are set to become amalgamated.

The Plymouth, Torbay and South Devon, and Exeter and Greater Devon services are merging to create one area, overseen by one Senior Coroner – but will retain both Coroners Courts, one in Plymouth and one in Exeter.

The UK's Chief Coroner, who oversees all coroners in the UK, recommends that where possible, any area where a senior coroner position become available should consider a merger rather than recruit to the post.

In 2023, the Senior Coroner for the Plymouth, Torbay and south Devon area retired, and so the Ministry of Justice asked for a merger to be considered. In light of this, rather than recruit a new Senior Coroner, the whole area will be overseen by one Senior Coroner, Phillip Spinney.

Discussions around whether to embed this change to form one area with one Senior Coroner have been underway for some time, and following the required process, and agreement from a wide range of partners, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the changes will be put in place from 1 April.

Though the merger will see one Senior Coroner and back office, there will still be two Coroner’s courts ensuring that families and friends will still be able to attend inquests in Plymouth.

Councillor Sally Haydon, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, Libraries, Cemeteries and Crematoria, said: "I was clear that we welcomed this consultation on the basis that nothing would change for our residents.

"I'm pleased this will be the case and that Plymouth, as Devon's biggest city, will still maintain a coroners court.

"I'd like to thank the Ministry of Justice and the Chief Coroner for carrying out this process in such a timely manner."

It is anticipated that the merger will allow for a number of improvements to be put in place, with a larger area meaning that processes can operate more efficiently. As well as helping to manage costs, this will provide improvements to the services that bereaved families receive.