Transfer of records to a Place of Deposit
Coroners’ records up to 15 years old are held by or on behalf of the coroner, in accordance with Coroners’ Rules. The Place of Deposit should not normally accept transfer of such records under the Act.
PoDs may, however, store and service such records as part of the local authority’s agreed administrative support to the coroner, but these must be clearly distinguished from records held under the Act, particularly if they are held at the same physical location. This arrangement is sometimes referred to as “on a records management basis.”
The terms of such support, including any internal recharges and service levels, is a matter for decision by the local authority, and may include management of records not required to be selected for permanent preservation under the Act. In these circumstances, when records selected for permanent preservation reach 15 years old, the “transfer” may be affected by a change of status, rather than any physical movement of records.
Transfer should be a regular, planned activity, co-ordinated between the coroner and the PoD. Where coroners do not have existing arrangements in place, they should contact the relevant PoD to agree procedures and a regular schedule for transfers. These should be in writing, and include contacts, means and timing of communications, to ensure that statutory deadlines can be met. They should be regularly reviewed in case changes are needed.
Records more than 15 years old may continue to be held on behalf of the coroner, up to the statutory transfer period (in transition to 20 years) unless the PoD agrees to early transfer under the Act. PoDs should normally accept early transfer of records which are within 5 years of the statutory transfer date if offered by the coroner. There is scope for local variation in practice subject to statutory compliance and by local agreement.
The appraisal and selection of records may take place at any point before transfer, and it is good practice to do this well in advance, to assist planning. This could take place, for example, at the point when an inquest is complete, and the case file is closed. A place of deposit may hold large quantities of inquest files which were transferred without having been subject to a formal appraisal process. In certain circumstances it is permissible for a place of deposit to retrospectively appraise these files using the good practice model. Places of deposit should consult The National Archives guidance on de-accessioning11 and contact Archives Sector Development for advice before undertaking a retrospective appraisal.
Appraisal decisions, criteria and processes should be formally documented by individual PoDs.
Records selected for permanent preservation should be transferred to the PoD no later than the statutory transfer date.
Preparation for transfer: analogue / “paper” records
Before transfer, the coroner or support staff must:
- Appraise and select records in accordance with this guidance and any local guidance provided by the PoD
- Agree a date for the transfer well in advance with the PoD.
- Securely pack the records in appropriate boxes in accordance with local PoD requirements. PoDs may be able to supply these at cost, or advise where to source them, or they may offer to accept transfer in non-standard containers.
- Draw up a list of the selected records to enable both parties to identify and locate them. If the PoD has a standard format for this, it should be followed.
- Review the transferring records for any potential sensitivity that requires records to be closed to public access, and record this on the transfer list
- Supply a copy of this list to the PoD in advance of transfer, so that any issues can be discussed, and the PoD can confirm that the records received are correct and complete.
- Arrange transport either direct, or with the PoD, if the latter provides this.
The coroner may request the PoD to carry out some of these activities. If the PoD agrees, the terms and any charges the PoD may make for the work should be recorded. This is a voluntary agreement and does not transfer the duty to the PoD.