Views of a Coroner: how do the courts view a disaster?

Fires that result in death inevitably result in a Coroner’s inquiry.

These courts consider the various causes of an incident and determine who, if anybody, is at fault.

High profile cases, such as the 2011 Quakers Hill nursing home fire and the 2012 apartment fire at Bankstown lead to in-depth investigations that may recommend reforms that significantly change the industry and improve public safety.

Hugh Dillon was the Deputy NSW Coroner who oversaw these two inquiries.

In the Bankstown case, he recommended the mandatory introduction of cost-effective sprinklers to residential buildings, which were developed by Fire and Rescue NSW, FPA Australia and the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition Australia based on research conducted at CSIRO’s major fire testing facility at North Ryde in Sydney.

But what does a Coroner look for in an investigation, and what lessons can be learnt by the fire protection industry?

Mr Dillon will give some insights from his extensive experience in the Coroner service.

Hugh court picture

Hugh Dillon

Former Deputy State Coroner NSW, Coroners Court of NSW

Hugh Dillon retired as a Deputy State Coroner and magistrate at the end of 2016. In 9 years as a coroner he managed about 6000 cases and conducted about 300 inquests and fire inquiries. He is now an Adjunct Professor at the UNSW Law School. He is co-author of Waller’s Coronial Law and Practice in New South Wales and The Australasian Coroner’s Manual. Hugh is now working on a PhD concerning the NSW coronial system.