It has long been the role of a coroner to consider if anything can be learned from a person's death, to avoid it happening again.

A coroner's recommendation or opinion has no legal weight, but can lead to change that could save lives.

Interesting then, this week, that two coroner reports have been highlighted - one with a strong opinion and one without.

Coroner Tim Scott has said that a Gisborne 6-year-old killed in an accident near her home should have been accompanied by an adult on her journey home from school.


However, many parents say the accident was a tragedy, but 6 is an okay age to be walking home without a parent or an adult. These can be hard conversations to have, but they are had, to see if something can change that prevents further deaths.

The other coroner's ruling is close to Hawke's Bay residents.

Nic Magdalinos died aged 36 in September 2017 after falling asleep at his Napier home, not long after a taxi dropped him off.

He never woke up, after consuming what Coroner JP Ryan ruled was a fatal amount of alcohol. Nic had been drinking heavily at the Hawke's Bay Club, including whisky from a bottle he purchased there.

He told a steward the whisky was a "takeaway", but drank most of it at the private club in Napier.

The two-storey colonial building graces a prime spot on the corner of Marine Parade and Browning St behind a large hedge.

The day he consumed fatal quantities of alcohol, Nic had been having running races on the lawn, after which another member noted he was "really drunk".

A club steward had seen Nic sharing it with other members, and didn't observe anything out of the ordinary.


"When I left they were all happy and not causing any trouble. Just like a normal person who had a few drinks."

Those drinking with Nic had a close up vantage point, and a different view. They were surprised at the gusto with which he was consuming the whisky.

Later that night, Nic fell asleep and never woke up.

What could have been done, to prevent his death? Perhaps nothing.

But it's odd that the coroner's report doesn't mention a word about reviewing the outdated liquor licence laws that give privilege to private clubs.

You cannot walk into a Hawke's Bay bar or licenced premises, purchase a bottle of whisky and start to drink it on the premises.


And if you tried, a flock of bar staff would begin to hover.

Because serving or having an intoxicated person on their premises could result in the loss of their licence and livelihood.

However, private clubs like Hawke's Bay Club are exempt under confusing laws which one moment, treat these clubs like other licenced premises, and then the next, exempt them.

Hawke's Bay Club did nothing illegal the day that Nic Magdalinos died. He filled his glass, he was the person who consumed the alcohol.

He could have taken the whisky home and drunk it. No one is pointing a finger of blame.

But in an age where restaurants, bars and sports clubs jump through hoops to obtain and then keep the responsibility of a liquor licence, with heavy emphasis on host responsibility, it is obvious that private clubs get special treatment.


What happened to Nic Magdalinos highlights the fact these laws are outdated, and need reviewing.

For a coroner to observe as Coroner JP Ryan did, that a man "drank himself to death" is an extraordinarily confronting observation to make.

Which makes a few lines suggesting some archaic verging on elitist rules should be reviewed a strange omission from the sad analysis of Nic Magdalinos' death.