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City Coroner faces probe after series of complaints
Bradford Coroner Peter Straker is under investigation after a string of serious complaints have been made about his conduct.
They include an allegation that he arranged a taxi driver to transport confidential medical and police records in an unsecured supermarket carrier bag between two Coroner’s Courts.
And that he instructed those deputising for him not to return verdicts of suicide or misadventure even if the facts proved such conclusions were appropriate.
The probe is being carried out by the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC), which has the power to suspend Mr Straker – who only became Coroner last year – until its inquiry is completed.
The OJC’s findings will be passed to the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling who will have the final say over his future.
Other complaints being investigated by the OJC include allegations that Mr Straker: l Was unprofessional in the way he revoked the appointments of three of his five Assistant Deputy Coroners (ADCs) and appointed a Deputy Coroner.
- Effectively left his area of jurisdiction, the Western Jurisdiction of West Yorkshire, uncovered by a Deputy Coroner as the remaining ADCs could not provide proper cover due to having jobs in London and the north east.
- Has problems with his short term memory, allegedly sometimes having more than a dozen conversations with people where he asked the same question.
- Completed forms citing causes of death which were not supported by the available evidence.
In addition, the OJC has asked for more information regarding allegations that Mr Straker displayed inappropriate behaviour in court, exercised poor judgement, and delegated judicial procedures to administration staff.
Mr Straker, who was appointed in June last year by Bradford Council, did not want to comment about the investigation when approached by the Telegraph & Argus yesterday.
The T&A also asked a series of questions to Bradford Council chief executive Tony Reeves and its lead solicitor Suzan Hemingway about Mr Straker, including the way he has tried to appoint his own choice of Deputy Coroner to supersede Professor Paul Marks, who has now been appointed a Coroner in Hull.
In response, a Council spokesman said it would not be commenting on individuals.
The Council did, however, confirm that Jonathan Nash, a disability solicitor for Newcastle Council, was appointed as an Assistant Deputy Coroner on July 25 last year, which was sanctioned by the Council as required by legislation.
However, it is understood that Mr Straker has since stated that appointment is temporary pending a formal recruitment process which will soon take place.
It is further understood that he has been told in no uncertain terms that the process must be “fair, transparent and accessible to all” amid concern about how his revocations and appointments of staff might be perceived.