Even the ancient office of the coroner cannot escape the drive for greater efficiency in the public service. However the chief coroner, His Honour Judge Peter Thornton, should be careful what he wishes for.

In his latest annual report, Thornton bemoans the fact that while the optimum workload of a coroner’s office is some 3,000-5,000 reported deaths a year, 60% of coroner areas deal with fewer than 2,000 reported deaths.

Obiter hesitates to suggest how a coroner might go about boosting a district’s annual death rate by 1,000 or so – but surely there’s a great plotline here for one of M.R. Hall’s Jenny Cooper thrillers?