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Interview: Wallace Bain talks about A Coroner Speaks for the Dead to Protect the Living

Wallace Bain retired in early 2020 after 28 distinguished years as a Coroner, most recently in Rotorua. During these years Mr Bain developed a national reputation for his sensitivity and compassion in dealing with difficult cases such as those of Nia Glassie and Moko Rangitoheriri. That a child is killed in New Zealand as a result of abuse every five weeks he finds “unacceptable”. He has also developed a reputation for being “a Coroner on the warpath” for his forthright demands from time to time that New Zealand’s laws and regulations be changed to protect ordinary citizens.

Tell us a little about A Coroner Speaks for the Dead to Protect the Living.

There are on average about 33,000 deaths in New Zealand each year. Of those, 3500, or about 10–11%, are referred to Coroners. Matters involving violence, criminality, suicide, mental health, custody, and where a doctor is unable to certify a cause of death, are all referred to the Coroner. The Coroner will find out when, where, how and why the death happened. They’ll also work out whether anything can be done differently so that similar deaths can be prevented.

What are some of the cases that you have worked on as Coroner on that feature in the book?

Major cases include child abuse cases Nia Glassie and Moko Rangitoheriheri; Co-sleeping cases; Suicide; Cyberbullying and Hunting.

What inspired you to write this book?

The reaction from groups I spoke to when they learnt about the role of a Coroner and major cases. They would say that they had no idea what a Coroner did, why and how etc, so I decided to write a book that would explain a Coroner’s role.

What was your routine when writing this book?

I spent three to four hours a day going through my records and setting the basic format.

What do you hope readers will take away from reading A Coroner Speaks for the Dead to Protect the Living.

An understanding of the Role of a Coroner and why a Coroner can make such a difference for the future.

What are you most proud of from your career as a coroner?

The significant changes that have been the result of Inquiries and Inquests I have presided over.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Went trout fishing.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

“Gang Land”- by Jared Savage-mind blowing what has been going on re drugs and in particular Methamphetamine.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

Catch more trout.

A Coroner Speaks for the Dead to Protect the Living by Wallace Bain, RRP $39.95



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