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Bradford Coroner resigns before inquiry into his conduct ends
Bradford Coroner Peter Straker has quit as a top-level probe into complaints about his conduct nears its end.
Dr Straker was suspended on full pay on February 6 last year after the investigation was started by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.
His resignation was last night confirmed by Bradford Council which recruited him and has been paying his £100,000-a-year wage along with Calderdale and Kirklees councils.
A spokesman for the JCIO said the inquiry would continue despite Dr Straker’s decison to step down.
The investigation stage, which far outran its original 90-day timescale, has now been completed and a report is being compiled to go to the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling and the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas for a final decision.
Bradford Council City Solicitor Suzan Hemingway, said: “The Council has been informed that Peter Straker, Coroner for West Yorkshire (Western Area) has resigned.
“The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office has been conducting an investigation into the Coroner’s conduct and it was the decision of the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor to suspend him on full pay during this investigation.
“Bradford Council, along with Calderdale Council and Kirklees Council, funds the district Coroner’s service but the investigation, its processes and outcomes are not in the Council’s jurisdiction.”
The spokesman for the JCIO added: “Dr Straker is the subject of an investigation by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office, and this will continue despite his resignation.
“The investigation has now concluded and a report will shortly be submitted to the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice for their consideration.”
Complaints considered by the investigation team included an allegation Dr Straker arranged a cab driver to transport confidential medical and police records in an unsecured supermarket carrier bag between two coroner’s courts.
It was also claimed he instructed those deputising for him not to return verdicts of suicide or misadventure even if the facts proved such conclusions were appropriate.
Other allegations against him included:
- that he had 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;
- was unprofessional in the way he revoked the appointments of three of his five Assistant Deputy Coroners and appointed a Deputy Coroner;
- effectively left his area of jurisdiction uncovered by a Deputy Coroner as the remaining ADCs could not provide proper cover due to having jobs in London and the north east.
The JCIO had also asked for more information regarding allegations Dr Straker displayed inappropriate behaviour in court and exercised poor judgment.
In March last year leaders of an Indian-Muslim Welfare Society handed in a 5,000-name petition to Bradford Council leader David Green listing complaints about Dr Straker’s handling of some inquests claiming there had been “unnecessary obstacles and delays” to burials because of him being “inflexible and insensitive”.
The petition was forwarded to the case investigators.
Earlier this year there had been demands by Bradford MPs, and a parliamentary motion, demanding to know why the investigation was taking so long.
Bradford East MP David Ward also asked the Ministry of Justice to refund Council taxpayers for Dr Straker’s wages paid while he was suspended. The request was refused.