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Coroner's court could be axed in Southend
12:40pm Monday 18th March 2013 in News
BEREAVED relatives could have to travel from Southend to Chelmsford to find out what happened to their loved ones.
Government officials have drawn up plans to merge the town’s coroner’s court with its Essex counterpart, threatening the future of inquests in Southend.
Ministry of Justice chiefs say “economies of scale” are needed to cut costs in the wake of the coalition’s austerity measures.
But relatives who have attended inquests in Southend argued grieving people should not be forced to travel 20 miles out of their way.
A woman whose husband died in Rochford two years ago, who did not want to be named, said: “I think it is important that inquests are held locally.
“It is an awful experience to go through and the last thing you want is even more stress on top of that.”
At the moment, coroner’s duties in Essex are split into two districts: Southend and south east Essex, and Essex and Thurrock.
The latter, which deals with about 5,000 deaths a year, commonly holds inquests at New Bridge House, in Chelmsford, where staff for both districts are based.
Inquests for Southend and south east Essex zone, which deals with between 1,200 and 1,500 deaths a year, are held at the courthouse in Victoria Avenue, Southend.
It is not clear how much money would be saved by merging the two, but Southend Council currently spends about £300,000 a year maintaining the service in its area.
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