Her Majesty’s Coroner for Stoke-on-trent and North Staffordshire, Ian Stewart Smith deals with just under 4,000 deaths and about 475 inquests a year.
In his position, Ian has helped Staffordshire University’s forensics students gain a unique insight into the workings of a coroner’s office, including hosting mock court proceedings so they can present their evidence in a realistic setting. He has also delivered lectures and invited staff and students to attend appropriate hearings, assisting in making the University’s forensics provision one of the best in the UK.
He said: “two lecturers, Dr. Roger Summers and Professor John Cassella, asked me to do a lecture for some forensic science students and it went from there, becoming a more regular thing. I absolutely enjoy doing the lectures and I get a kick out of talking to students.”
Ian became a student himself in 1971, when he started a Law degree at Sheffield University. But it was earlier, at Queen Mary’s grammar School, in Walsall, when his interest in the subject was sparked.
He said: “I was fascinated by law. I remember my headmaster at school suggesting I go and watch some advocacy at a local court. One case I remember in particular was when there were four men charged with public order offences and the defence solicitor was brilliant.”
After graduating from university Ian embarked on a six month course at the College of Law in Chester.
He then became a solicitor at West Midlands based Addison, Cooper, Jesson and Co, which later became Addison O’Hare. In 1984 he was appointed Deputy Coroner and then in 2001 HM Coroner for Walsall. After his counterpart in Stoke-on-trent and North Staffordshire retired in 2003, Ian decided on a change and took up the job.
Currently, he is the West Midlands Representative on the Council of the Coroners’ Society of England and Wales and a past President of the West Midlands and Central Wales Coroners’ Society. He has served on a number of committees, including the Law Review Committee of the national society, and is also currently the Chairman of Staffordshire’s “Crash Course” programme, which aims to reduce road deaths among young drivers.
Ian, aged 58, lives in Stone with his wife Fleur, with whom he has three children, Andrew, 17, Philip, 26, and Alex, 29.
The Award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is bestowed upon Ian in recognition of his role as HM Coroner for Stoke-on-trent and North Staffordshire, for providing unique learning opportunities to forensic science students, and support for the teaching team, helping to enhance
the University’s reputation as a UK leader in forensic education.
He said: “I’m very flattered and honoured to receive the award, and somewhat surprised, particularly when I see who some of the previous honorary degrees have been given to.”