The Coronial Assistance Legal Service is operated by Caxton Legal Centre and Townsville Community Legal Service. The service is funded by the Department of Justice and Attorney General to provide legal advice and representation to bereaved families in contact with the Coronial system.
In November 2019 Caxton Legal Centre hosted a panel discussion on the ways in which principles of therapeutic jurisprudence can be applied in the Coroner’s Court to enhance the experiences of families, witnesses and staff.
Students Elloise Campbell, Laura Sharkey and Sarah Thompson, from the University of Queensland’s Pro Bono Centre also prepared a paper Coronial Investigations in Queensland: (Counter)-Therapeutic Effects, highlighting some of the common experiences of families throughout coronial processes and avenues for increased therapeutic outcomes. These include:
- Increased availability of free legal services for families. Of the 107 families that Caxton assisted through the Coronial Service from June 2017 until November 2019, 90 families identified as being financially disadvantaged and being unable to afford to pay for legal advice or representation in relation to their coronial matter.
- Increased access to counselling and support services. There is currently limited counselling and support services available for bereaved families throughout the coronial process in Queensland. Families are currently being referred to Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services for support immediately after death, however this agency cannot provide ongoing support to families and limited to no support is offered to witnesses.
- Time delays and lack of communication in the coronial process.
- Allowing families to provide information about the deceased person during an investigation or at inquest.
- Timely and thoughtfully devised coronial recommendations can strengthen the therapeutic benefit of the coronial jurisdiction for families.