Coroner slams Vale of Glamorgan over inquest facilities
12:20pm Thursday 7th February 2013 in News
A LEADING coroner has slated the Vale of Glamorgan Council over the lack of facilities it provides for bereaved people, witnesses, experts and staff using the Cardiff-based inquest court.
Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan coroner, Mary Hassell, criticised the authority during an inquest hearing last month and apologised for the conditions at the central police station-based facility.
Ms Hassell says wheelchair users would find it difficult to serve on a jury and disabled or mobility impaired people are often unable to – or find it difficult – to access the stand.
Neither the male or female toilet cubicles has wheelchair access.
The coroner added that fire exits have to be opened due to lack of air quality and there are sometimes difficulties catering for legal staff and the different parties using the facility.
She also said there are no refreshment facilities and those attending are advised their closest options are Cardiff Crown Court or the National Museum of Wales.
Ms Hassell said staff and jury members were forced to operate in cramped conditions with one employee having to work from home due to the lack of space.
She added she had been making representations to the authority since August 2005 and had only been able to undertake some courtroom decoration thanks to the generosity of the police who donated paint.
Vale council director of development services, Rob Thomas, confirmed the Vale council, on behalf of Cardiff council, was responsible for the coroner’s service and as such has tried to work with the coroner to identify suitable alternative accommodation.
He said: “At present the service is hosted in Central Police Station by South Wales Police and police staff have worked with the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff councils in an attempt to identify suitable alternative accommodation for some considerable time.
“A number of alternative locations have been proposed but they have all been rejected by the coroner herself.
“There is suitable and sufficient accommodation at Central Police Station in Cathays Park for the coroner and her staff, however, it is accepted that the court room and court facilities are not ideal.
“A number of options have been put forward including using spare capacity at Cardiff Crown Court, but regrettably they have all been rejected by the coroner.
“The coroner has been and will be kept informed of all meetings regarding the accommodation, the most recent taking place in October 2012.”
The Vale council last month approved a £250,000 revamp of its council chamber to meet disability requirements.