Extra help is needed to offer support and practical help to people attending an inquest.
The call for volunteers was made as current volunteers received a special visit from West Sussex High Sheriff, Lady Emma Barnard. Lady Emma praised the work of volunteers and saw their work first-hand at the court at Centenary House in Crawley.
She said: “I can’t sing the volunteers’ praises highly enough. They all do this because they care about people and want to support the coroner’s service. They are wonderful, practical and kind.”
Another special visitor was Roey Burden, who set up the Coroners’ Courts Support Service. Roey said: “Volunteers are important because they are there solely to support those attending whereas court staff have multiple tasks to deal with. They are giving up their time to be there to look after those attending and this means they really want to help.”
Volunteers are asked to carry out a minimum commitment of one day a fortnight. Training is given and travel expenses to the court are reimbursed.
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Carol Bowring, one of the volunteers, who lives in Horsham, said: “I do feel I can help families. It helps if you are interested in people and are a caring person.”
Pauline Murdoch, another volunteer, from Brighton, said: “I had been a Samaritan and my son suggested I might be good at this. I have been a volunteer for a year now and can see I make a difference to people attending inquests, even if it is just to reassure them. Come and give it a try and see if it is something you would enjoy.”
West Sussex’s first dedicated Coroner’s Court opened in March. The new court has two court rooms and also a family room for relatives to have a quiet space.
West Sussex’s coroner’s office presides over around 370 inquests per year out of the estimated 3,300 deaths reported to the Coroner from across the county.
The Coroner works independently of the local authority, police and the Crown Prosecution Service. She has a statutory function to determine how a person came by their death. The nature of some deaths will require an inquest to be held.
Full training will be given.