A Staffordshire University graduate has been appointed as the new senior coroner for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.
Andrew Barkley will take up the post on April 1 following the retirement of Ian Smith, who is stepping down after 15 years in the role.
Mr Barkley has previously held positions including assistant coroner for Birmingham and Solihull in 2014, and assistant coroner for the Black Country in 2015. In 2016 he was appointed senior coroner for South Wales Central, where he currently works.
The father-of-three, who attended Staffordshire University between 1989 and 1994, said: “I’m delighted to be appointed as senior coroner for Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, and I‘m really looking forward to getting started and providing public service at the highest standard.
“Having spent five years of my life studying at Staffordshire University, this feels like a bit of a homecoming for me. It’s a part of the world that is still close to my heart and it’s a great honour to get this position.”
Mr Barkley began his career as a trainee solicitor with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in 1994. He was appointed as a senior crown prosecutor in 1998 and became a crown advocate with the CPS in 2001. Later that year he was commissioned into the legal services branch of the Army’s Adjutant General’s Corps (AGC), where he prosecuted in court martials in the UK and abroad. In 2010 he started on his current career path when he was appointed assistant deputy coroner for Shropshire.
Retiring coroner Ian Smith has held the position since September 2003, having previously been the deputy coroner for Walsall since 1984 and senior coroner from 2001. He estimates he has presided over more than 5,000 inquests during his career, the vast majority of which have been in Stoke-on-Trent.
He said: “I always try to put the family at the centre of the inquest. Say hello, ask them how they are, it’s important to have that rapport and friendliness with people because it can be a very difficult, and upsetting, experience for them. My predecessor John Wain was in the post for 15 years, and I think his predecessor did 19 years, so I haven’t done too badly! I class myself as an adopted Stokie now.
“I’ve got lots of plans for retirement. I’ll still remain an assistant coroner in the south of the county doing a few days a year, I’ll be a course director for national coroner training and I’ve been appointed as an associate non-executive director at Royal Stoke Hospital. I also give lectures to university students on the role of a coroner and forensic science, and I’d like to carry on doing that as it’s something I enjoy. I’ve been fortunate to work with some fantastic people over the years, and I’d like to thank all the coroner support staff, the emergency services, the medical staff at the hospital and many others for their help and support over the years.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council share responsibility for advertising the job vacancy, shortlisting, carrying out interviews and selecting a preferred candidate, subject to final approval from the Chief Coroner HH Mark Lucraft QC which has been secured.
Councillor Ann James, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said: “On behalf of the city, I’d like to congratulate and thank Mr Smith on his 15 years’ service. He has carried out his job with the utmost professionalism at all times and has been a credit to the coroner’s court. In Andrew Barkley, we have a fantastic replacement who has a personal connection to the local area, and I wish him well in his new job.”
Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “Ian Smith has been a devoted servant of Staffordshire, ensuring residents were properly represented and had full access to justice at a difficult and vulnerable moment in their lives. I wish him well in his retirement and also welcome his successor Andrew Barkley in the confident expectation that he will continue to ensure the highest standards for all.”
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