Amendments to the Coroners Act
13 Sep 2021 Posted in Press releases
- The Ministry of Law (“MinLaw”) has introduced the Coroners (Amendment) Bill (“Bill”) for First Reading in Parliament today. The proposed amendments provide flexibility to exempt selected deaths from certain provisions of the Act, and to make body viewing discretionary rather than mandatory.
Flexibility to Exempt a Death from Certain Provisions of the Act
- Currently, the Coroners Act (“Act”) requires the Coroner to certify the cause of death in certain circumstances. In some cases, the cause of death cannot be determined without a post-mortem examination; a post-mortem examination then becomes necessary before the body can be released.
- 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 of Singapore.
- The Bill introduces flexibility for Singapore to accede to such requests, provided 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 exempt a reportable death from certain provisions of the Act, including the requirement that our Coroner certify the cause of death.
The Minister will only exempt a death from the Act if it is in the public interest to do so. Some factors that the Minister may consider include:
a. any preliminary investigative findings by the Police on the cause of and circumstances connected with the death;
b. any views from the forensic pathologist on the cause of and circumstances connected with the death, based on the available information; and/
c. whether the foreign State has a legitimate interest in the death./
Making Body Viewing Discretionary
- Currently, the Act requires the Coroner to view the body as soon as possible after a death is reported to him/her, to ensure that the deceased is correctly identified. However, there are already existing safeguards to ensure the correct identification of bodies. For example, the body will be tagged with the deceased’s particulars at the scene and again at the mortuary; the Police Investigation Officer will also verify the accuracy of and sign a Body Identification Form (“BIF”) containing a photograph of the body and the deceased’s personal particulars, before sending the BIF to the Coroner.
- The Bill will make body viewing by the Coroner discretionary, instead of mandatory. This will expedite the process of releasing the body to the family, and will also save resources for the Police, the Health Sciences Authority and the Coroner.
- Even with this amendment, 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.
Last updated on 13 Sep 2021