St Helens’ coroner service could be merged and moved to Liverpool

St Helens Town Hall where most of the town's inquests are held
St Helens Town Hall where most of the town's inquests are held
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A coroner’s court serving people in St Helens could be moved to Liverpool as part of cost-cutting plans.

The move could see residents in the borough travel to Liverpool city centre to attend hearings into loved ones’ deaths.

The Ministry of Justice has a policy of merging coroner’s areas where possible.

Later this year St Helens’ area coroner Christopher Sumner will retire aged 75.

It is understood Liverpool coroner Andre Rebello is preparing to officially propose to merge his service with St Helens’.

That could mean all four of Mr Sumner’s coroner’s officers moving to Liverpool.

If the move went ahead, it would mean anyone who passed anyone in St Helens would have their inquest held in Liverpool.

A coroners service source said: “There is potential here for people to lose that local knowledge as the people who deal with each case may well not know the area.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “If an opportunity arises to merge coroner areas, we will consider the options carefully. Any merger should put bereaved people first and allow a local authority to run a more efficient service.”

“Where a merger is proposed, we will consult on it and carefully consider the responses.”

A spokesman for St Helens Council said they were aware of Mr Sumner’s impending retirement but had not been notified of a proposed merger.

He said: “The council can confirm that it has had no official contact of notification of any changes to the coroners service.

“We are aware of the impending retirement of Mr Sumner, but this hasn’t been made official.

“However it is for the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to decide on how the coroners service is delivered.

“No decisions will be made without consultation with the three local authorities (St Helens, Sefton and Knowsley) affected by Mr Sumner’s retirement.

“Consultation will take place to decide on the way forward, the current footprint, and any proposed changes with open dialogue with all parties concerned.”