Police investigate complaint from suspended Bristol coroner
Police have launched a criminal investigation after a complaint by suspended coroner Paul Forrest.
The Avon and Somerset police probe, which is several weeks old, follows last month's suspension of Mr Forrest, who is responsible for the former Avon area.
Mr Forrest has been suspended on full pay while an investigation is carried out into alleged misconduct in September 2005.
It is believed a complaint was made claiming he made inappropriate comments to two people after a dispute over how the coroner's court at Flax Bourton should be run.
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It is the statutory duty of a local authority, in this case Bristol City Council, to fund a Coroner's Service and appoint a coroner, but it is the coroner's duty to run his or her court.
The Post understands comments made in an out-of-court disagreement sparked the complaint.
An inquiry took place in front of a judge, and a report finished in August, but it was not until March 14 that the shock suspension came into effect.
But, in a dramatic twist, Mr Forrest has made separate allegations himself which are now being looked into by the Major Crime Investigation Unit.
Police spokesman Steve Game confirmed: "We have received a complaint from Paul Forrest in relation to alleged criminal conduct and we are currently investigating it."
It is understood the people being investigated, who are Bristol-based, are unlikely to yet be aware of this, and cannot be named for legal reasons.
An investigation into Mr Forrest's alleged misconduct will now be carried out by a judge, who will make a recommendation to the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice.
If it is found Mr Forrest did make inappropriate comments, the worst- case scenario is that he could lose his position ruling over inquests for the region.
A spokesman for the Office for Judicial Complaints said: "Mr Forrest has been suspended by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice from his duties as coroner, pending the outcome of an investigation into a complaint made to the Office for Judicial Complaints. While the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further."
Simon Caplan, a spokesman for Bristol City Council, which employs the Avon Coroner's Court staff, said last week: "We are not commenting on any matters relating to Mr Forrest. The business of the court is proceeding as usual, in line with the regulations laid down by parliament, with all scheduled hearings being presided over by a team of assistant coroners."
A coroner is officially responsible for investigating deaths – particularly those which happened in unusual circumstances – as well determining the causes of death.
Mr Forrest's role is currently being carried out by assistant deputy coroner Maria Voisin.