Minimising The Counter-Therapeutic Effects Of Coronial Investigations: In Search Of Balance
For more than a decade analyses of coronial processes inspired by both therapeutic jurisprudence and restorative justice have identified the potential for maximising the therapeutic and public health benefits of the investigative functions of coroners’ courts and minimising their counter-therapeutic potential. The focus of both scholarly literature and law reform proposals has been upon addressing deficits in respect of the role of families in coronial investigations and especially coroners’ inquests. This has been a constructive contribution and has improved sensitivity to the risk that family members will be disenfranchised and alienated at a highly vulnerable time after they have been bereaved. This article chronicles the development in awareness of such issues. However, the potential for adverse effects on parties other than family members has been inadequately recognised in the literature, save for empirical studies conducted in 2011 for the Coronial Council of Victoria and another study published in 2014 in New Zealand. This article seeks to redress that imbalance. It argues that it is appropriate also to have regard to such potential in endeavouring to provide an approach to the work of coroners that is influenced by the sensibilities of therapeutic jurisprudence and seeks to reduce, so far as possible, counter-therapeutic outcomes for all parties, at the same time prioritising accurate and robust fact-finding and formulation of constructive recommendations to avoid avoidable deaths. It calls for further empirical research on the impact of coroners’ investigations on all affected parties and argues in favour of extension of improved funding to enable approaches to be informed by therapeutic jurisprudence and in particular to enhance eligibility for the services of counselling services attached to coroners’ courts.