August 24, 2023

Petition for Better Support for Bereaved Whānau

Written By

Report of the Justice Committee Petition of Corinda Taylor for Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust: Access to Justice for Suicide Bereaved Families and Whānau 

On 7 August 2023 we received this report from the Justice Committee following a petition to them on 4 December 2019.

Recommendation from this report: The Justice Committee has considered the petition of Corinda Taylor for Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust—Access to Justice for Suicide-Bereaved Families and Whānau—and recommends that the House take note of its report.

Comment from petitioner, Corinda Taylor: This report speaks of pressure on the coronial system, yet it does not mention the pressure placed on bereaved whānau who have to navigate a system that is designed to break us. As bereaved whānau tell us so often, it is a system that is devoid of care and empathy. It re-traumatises anyone having to navigate their loved one’s coronial inquiry without support and adds an extra layer of complicated grief that could be avoided.

The Ministry acknowledged that the coronial system is under pressure and that the resulting delays distress grieving families. The Ministry advised that between April 2019 and April 2023: 

  • The average length of time that coronial cases took to be completed rose by 44% from 339 to 489 days. 
  • The number of active coronial cases increased by 43% from 4,564 to 6,545. 

The petitioner, Corinda Taylor, represented herself in court during her son’s case because of the cost of legal assistance. While all other parties had expert witnesses and legal representation the Taylor family had none. This is the case with most families. It is not natural justice for bereaved whānau to go through a court system without equal legal representation and expert witnesses.

The petitioner believes that families and whānau affected by suicide “do not stand a chance” in the court environment, competing with experienced lawyers. She believes that families should not be expected to cross-examine witnesses but also that they need their own expert witnesses. 

While the Ministry of Justice said that changes have been made to improve the coronial system over the last two years, these do not include:

  • Free legal support to bereaved whānau of the same standards that are afforded to other parties.
  • Free expert witness support to bereaved whānau.
  • Emotional support to bereaved whānau.