The office of David Horsley, HM Coroner for Portsmouth and South East Hampshire, pictured left, has issued a note to the press stating new instructions from the Chief Coroner now mean only the deceased’s name and surname, age and date and place of death may be revealed prior to a hearing.
But Kimberley Barber, senior reporter at The News, Portsmouth, has challenged the decision, claiming the Coroner for neighbouring Southampton and West Hampshire, based at Winchester, has implemented no such instructions.
Kimberley says inquest listings for Portsmouth used to include a short description, for example “industrial disease”, which would allow The News to make a judgement as to whether the hearing would be worth covering.
A memo from Mr Horsley’s office states: “Please note that we have received new instructions from the Chief Coroner and the only details we are now allowed to disclose to you prior to an Inquest are the name and surname of the deceased, his/her age and the date and place of death.
“If you wish to find out more about a case, you will have to attend the inquest.”
Kimberley, who regularly attends inquests for The News, said: “I’m outraged at the continuing barriers being put in the path of local journalists by coroners’ courts and their staff.
“We are all trying to do a job to the best of our abilities in the most efficient way and we constantly face unnecessary opposition from these courts.
“People attending inquests are already distressed enough without there being the added unnecessary pressure of a journalist asking questions that could have been answered by a member of staff from the coroner’s court.
“As a proud local journalist I take pride in abiding by the IPSO code of conduct and if anything these courts and their unhelpful ways are forcing us to intrude into grief and shock.
“They should be ashamed and take stock of who they are really serving and what they are achieving by being so unhelpful with journalists’ enquiries.”
Mr Horsley has yet to respond to HTFP’s request for a comment on the issue.