Coroners (Access to Body of Dead Person) Amendment Bill

Coroners (Access to Body of Dead Person) Amendment Bill

Government Bill

33—1

Explanatory note

General policy statement

This Bill implements a recommendation of the Māori Affairs Committee Report (the report), Inquiry into whānau access to and management of tūpāpaku, to improve cultural considerations in the coronial system. The report recommended amending section 26 of the Coroners Act 2006 (the Act) to require the coroner to also consider cultural considerations when determining whether someone should be allowed to remain with the tūpāpaku (the body of a deceased person). The Government Response to the report accepted the recommendation to improve cultural considerations in the coronial system.

The Bill amends section 26 of the Act to require the coroner, when determining whether a person should be allowed to remain with the tūpāpaku, to also consider tikanga Māori and the expectations of other cultures. Currently, the Act does not require coroners to take cultural considerations into account when making decisions under section 26, but they have discretion to do so. In practice, coroners work with whānau to determine when it is appropriate for whānau to remain with the tūpāpaku.

In New Zealand, it is important that, to the extent possible, all cultural beliefs are recognised and supported. The proposed amendment is consistent with that approach; it will strengthen the Act’s focus on cultural considerations and will recognise and enshrine current best practice.

Departmental disclosure statement

The Ministry of Justice is required to prepare a disclosure statement to assist with the scrutiny of this Bill. The disclosure statement provides access to information about the policy development of the Bill and identifies any significant or unusual legislative features of the Bill.

Clause by clause analysis

Clause 1 states the Bill’s Title.

Clause 2 provides for the Bill to come into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.

Clause 3 provides that the Bill amends the Coroners Act 2006 (the principal Act).

Under section 25 of the principal Act, a coroner may authorise 1 or more persons to view, touch, or remain with or near a body that is in the coroner’s custody. The persons who may be authorised are 1 or more members of the immediate family of the dead person (or a person who is suspected to be the dead person), representatives of the immediate family, or religious or spiritual advisers who are chosen by the immediate family. Immediate family is a defined term in section 9 of the principal Act.

Section 26 of the principal Act provides the list of matters that a coroner must take into account when determining whether to authorise a person to view, touch, or remain with or near a body and whether to impose any conditions.

Clause 4 amends section 26 of the principal Act to require a coroner to take into account the ethnic origins, social attitudes or customs, or spiritual beliefs of the person who is, or of a person who is suspected to be, the dead person, or of an immediate family member of that person, that customarily require the viewing or touching of, or remaining with or near, the body.

The wording in new section 26(2)(ea) is similar to the existing wording in sections 32 and 37 of the principal Act. (Section 32 provides criteria that a coroner must have regard to when deciding whether to direct a post-mortem; section 37 provides good reasons why a coroner may direct a pathologist to perform a post-mortem immediately in some cases.)

New section 26(2)(ea) also provides the example of the customary requirement that immediate family members be able to view, touch, or remain with or near the body according to tikanga Māori.

Hon Andrew Little

Coroners (Access to Body of Dead Person) Amendment Bill

Government Bill

33—1

The Parliament of New Zealand enacts as follows:

1 Title

This Act is the Coroners (Access to Body of Dead Person) Amendment Act 2018.

2 Commencement

This Act comes into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal assent.

3 Principal Act

This Act amends the Coroners Act 2006 (the principal Act).

4 Section 26 amended (Matters to be taken into account under section 25(3))

After section 26(2)(e), insert:

(ea)

the ethnic origins, social attitudes or customs, or spiritual beliefs of the person who is, or of a person who is suspected to be, the dead person, or of an immediate family member of that person, that customarily require viewing, touching, or remaining with or near the body (for example, the customary requirement that immediate family members be able to view, touch, or remain with or near the body according to tikanga Māori):