Repatriations (2016/02)

1. Background

This Practice Note applies to chambers findings and inquest findings ("findings"). References to "the Act" are to the Coroners Act 2006. The Practice Note is to be read in conjunction with the Act. In the case of any inconsistency, the Act is to prevail.

2. Commencement of this Practice Note

This Practice Note will apply from 22 July 2016.

3. Introduction

Section 13(3) of the Coroners Act 2006 ("Coroners Act") provides that any person may, but is not required to, report an overseas death to a Police employee if -

  1. the person is concerned that overseas authorities have not established the cause and circumstance of the death, or there is doubt about the accuracy of any conclusion reached by an overseas authority; and
  2. the body of the dead person is in New Zealand.

This Practice Note concerns the repatriation of bodies to New Zealand but this does not include cremated human remains or bodies repatriated from French Polynesia for cremation because there are no facilities in the remitting country and the ashes are to be promptly returned.

4. Conduct of repatriation of bodies

[1] If a death is or is likely to be reported under section 13(3) of the Coroners Act.

  1. All preliminary reports of arrival of such deaths are to be sent to the National Initial Investigation Office (“NIIO”) for the attention of the National Duty Coroner (after hours or daytime as applicable).
  2. The duty coroner will assess whether there is appropriate confirmation of the cause of death, either because an overseas coroner or medical examiner or other independent death Investigation authority is involved, or there is clear post mortem information.
  3. The duty coroner may make contact with anyone reporting the death under section 13(3) of the Coroners Act to establish the concerns held regarding the findings of the overseas authority. This includes members of the deceased’ family.
  4. Generally if there is no wish by immediate family for a New Zealand coroner to be involved jurisdiction should not be taken. There is no ability to compel adducing of evidence overseas or to interfere with the process in other jurisdictions.
  5. Consultation with the relevant duty Pathologist may be desirable if there are issues such as embalming or the state of the body.
  6. Sometimes a Pathologist will need to undertake a preliminary inspection and a coroner may direct such an inspection under section 21A of the Coroners Act.
  7. If the duty coroner does take jurisdiction, Police are to be notified by NIIO.
  8. Police staff must prepare a Sudden Death file in the ordinary way, to the extent possible, and must include in that file:
    1. Pol 47; and
    2. Statement of Identification, or any available information about identification; and
    3. any additional information that may be available to assist the duty coroner.
  9. The Airport Police recommend that the contracted Funeral Director be engaged as they have ready access to equipment to open a sealed casket and there is a level of comfort about security during transfer to the Mortuary. Families are free as in normal cases to engage their own Funeral Director once the body is released.
  10. The process for repatriation should follow a similar course as with other sudden deaths dealt with by the duty coroner.
  11. From time to time as required, the chief coroner will formulate recommended forms for use by Funeral Directors and other agencies who may be involved. The current Funeral Directors report to duty coroner is attached.
    Notification to the coroner of overseas death for repatriation to New Zealand [PDF, 20 KB]
  12. The duty coroner needs to be pragmatically sensitive to the problems a local Funeral Director may have in getting the necessary information from overseas as often the papers are with the casket.

Judge Deborah Marshall
Dated: 21 July 2016

This page was last updated: