Commencement of the Coroners (Amendment) Act 2021 and Amendments to the Third Schedule of the Coroners Act 2010
2 May 2023 Posted in Announcements
- The Coroners (Amendment) Act 20211 (“Act”) comes into force on 2 May 2023.
- The Act streamlines and introduces greater flexibility to the coronial process, in particular:
a. Making the viewing of the body by the Coroner discretionary rather than mandatory; and
b. Empowering the Minister for Law to exempt selected deaths from certain provisions of the Coroners Act 2010 ("Coroners Act").
(I) Making Body Viewing Discretionary
- Previously, the Coroner was required to view the body as soon as possible after a death was reported to him/her.
- With the amendments, the viewing of the body by the Coroner is now discretionary, instead of mandatory, which will expedite the release of the body to the family, and also save resources for the Singapore Police Force, Health Sciences Authority, and the Coroner.
- There will remain existing safeguards to ensure the correct identification of bodies. Examples of the other measures include tagging the body with the deceased’s particulars at the scene and again at the mortuary, presenting the deceased’s identification documents and verifying a Body Identification Form (containing a photograph of the body and the deceased’s personal particulars) at the mortuary.
- The Coroner will still be able to view the body if the Coroner considers this to be necessary, e.g. if foul play is suspected.
(II) Flexibility to Exempt a Death from Certain Provisions of the Coroners Act
- Previously, the Coroner was required to order a post-mortem examination to be conducted to determine the cause of death in certain circumstances, e.g. if there are no external signs of injury or disease.
- However, there may be circumstances where a foreign State requests that Singapore not conduct a post-mortem examination. For instance, they may wish to conduct their own post-mortem examination on their citizen or resident who happened to die in Singapore after sustaining an injury, contracting a disease, or suffering a condition outside Singapore.
- The amended Act provides flexibility for Singapore to accede to such requests, if Singapore does not have a significant interest in having our own Coroner conduct investigations. If certain conditions (refer to the Annex) are met, the Minister for Law may exercise discretion to issue a certificate to exempt the death from certain provisions of the Coroners Act. The Minister will only exempt a death from the Coroners Act if it is in the public interest to do so.
(III) Amendments to the Third Schedule of the Coroners Act
- The Third Schedule of the Coroners Act sets out the categories of deaths where a Coroner’s Inquiry (“CI”) is mandatory, unless the Coroner is satisfied that the death was due to natural causes.
- Two categories of deaths (set out below) have been removed from the Third Schedule. It will thus be discretionary, and not mandatory, for a CI to be held for such deaths.
a. Deaths that occurred, directly or indirectly, as a result of any medical treatment or care. It may not be necessary for a CI to be held for cases involving known and easily ascertainable complications, with no suggestion of mistreatment or want of care. Providing for CIs to be discretionary in such cases will also relieve family members of having to experience the pain of losing their loved ones again at the CI. It will also avoid the need for medical witnesses to take time off from their essential duties to testify at a CI, in cases where a CI may not be necessary.
b. Deaths involving a public vehicle, commercial transport vehicle, rapid transit system or other mode of public transport. It may not be necessary for a CI to be held where the cause of death is clearly documented with video footage, there was no intervention of another vehicle, or no evidence of drug or alcohol use to suggest impairment of any driver.
MINISTRY OF LAW
2 MAY 2023
Annex- Conditions Allowing the Minister for Law to Exempt a Reportable Death
1. The Bill was introduced for First Reading in Parliament on 13 September 2021. It was passed by Parliament on 5 October 2021. The press release issued by the Ministry of Law during the First Reading is available here, and the Second Reading Speech by Second Minister For Law, Edwin Tong SC, is available here, for reference.↩
Last updated on 2 May 2023