Inquests: About the Coroner

A Coroner is an independent judicial officer

There is usually a senior coroner for each area helped by assistant coroners.

What do Coroners do?

Coroners look into violent or unnatural deaths, sudden deaths of unknown cause, and deaths which have occurred in custody or state detention.

When a death is reported, the coroner will establish whether an inquest is required. If an inquest is held, the coroner will establish the identity of the person who has died, and where, when and how the person came by their death.

An inquest is not permitted to determine, or appear to determine, whether a crime has been committed or whether there has been any negligence. It is to determine what happened. It is not to apportion blame or to name who was responsible for what happened.

The coroner can assist in the prevention of future deaths. The coroner has a power to report the circumstances of a case to an appropriate authority. Such a report can be a very useful tool in ensuring that similar fatalities are avoided.

Coroners’ Officers

Coroners’ officers work under the direction of coroners and liaise with bereaved families, the police, doctors, witnesses, mortuary staff, and funeral directors. They make inquiries at the direction, and on behalf, of a coroner. Most coroners’ officers are civilians, but some are serving police officers.

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 (“the 2009 Act”) made a number of changes to the coroner system. It created a new national head of the coroner system, the office of Chief Coroner. It introduced the new concept of “investigation” into a death, which where appropriate includes an inquest.

In addition, new rules and regulations were introduced in 2013.

For more information follow this link to The Chief Coroner’s Guide to the Coroners and Justice Act 2009.


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