Chaplain Chris Copsey supports Coroner’s inquests
Revd Canon Chris Copsey recently marked ten years in the unusual role of supporting those attending Coroner’s inquests. In a recent webinar organised by the Norwich Interfaith Group she talked about her work.
Chris was appointed ten years ago by the Coroner and licensed by the Bishop of Norwich as Chaplain to the Norfolk Coroner’s Service making Norfolk a trail blazer, the first in the country. She is not aware of another such Chaplain.
Chris explained to those who joined the webinar, something of the long history of Coroners, dating back to 1194.
In 2018-19 Norfolk had 3208 deaths referred to the Coroner, of which some 12% were considered to investigate.
Since early 2020 Covid 19 has meant inquests held with few people attending the court. Normally meeting people has been a huge part of the role and hopefully will be in the future.
“Inquests are tough,” said Chris. “They are full of people with lots of questions, raw and difficult emotions and grief. Families, innocent witnesses and professional witnesses bring different challenges to support.
“Working with vulnerable people has been helpful. I sat for three or four hours with one witness who needed continual reassurance. Sitting alongside in court and an occasional touch on the shoulder was enough to bring down anxiety levels.”
As Chaplain I support people of all faiths and none, provide a safe space with time and willingness to listen and face big issues, strong emotions and vulnerability. I signpost to other agencies who offer support.
An inquest, says Chris, is a place of law and grace – “law which brings authority and gives answers, grace which gives time and space for people to tell their story. I recognise the profound pain but also the courage and resilience of each person and situation.”
Chris does not have a script, each inquest, however brief or long, comes in its own unique way. “I just have to find ways of allowing lament and articulating something of hope and consolation,”
Pictured above is Revd Chris Copsey