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City Coroner suspended as probe is launched
The country’s top legal officers have suspended Bradford Coroner Peter Straker from carrying out his duties as a top-level probe into his conduct continues.
The decision by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge and the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling came into affect yesterday.
Last month the Telegraph & Argus exclusively revealed that the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) had started an investigation into a series of complaints levelled against Mr Straker.
Investigators have up to 90 days to carry out their inquiries then present any findings to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor who will decide if any action will be taken against him.
Mr Straker has been suspended until the OJC investigation is concluded.
The complaints being considered by the investigatiion team include an allegation that Mr Straker arranged a cab driver to transport confidential medical and police records in an unsecured supermarket carrier bag between two coroner’s courts.
And it has been 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 Mr Straker include that he: l 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.
- 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.
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.
A spokesman for the Office for Judicial Complaints said yesterday: “As part of the OJC’s investigation into complaints made against Dr Peter Straker, the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice have suspended Dr Straker from office pending the conclusion of its investigation.”
Mr Straker, who originally trained as a surgeon and was appointed Coroner in June last year, did not want to comment about the investigation when contacted by the Telegraph & Argus about his suspension.
The T&A understands that Bradford Council, which recruited and employs Mr Straker, has now re-appointed the Assistant Deputy Coroners he dismissed so they can conduct inquests until the OJC investigation is concluded.
It is further understood that Jonathan Nash, a disability solicitor for Newcastle Council, appointed by Mr Straker as an Assistant Deputy Coroner on July 25 last year and sanctioned by the Council as required by legislation, will not be conducting any inquests in the West Yorkshire Jurisdiction during the period of the investigation and neither will the other Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker, a high-profile North London coroner.
A Council spokesman said: “We will co-operate fully with the investigation being carried out by the Office for Judicial Complaint, which we hope will be concluded quickly. We are unable to comment further on this as the matter is under investigation.
“However, we want to reassure people that arrangements are in place to ensure that while this investigation takes place there will be no impact to the service provided by the Coroner's office.”