An inquest must be held without a jury unless specified limited circumstances apply.
In some circumstances the coroner is required to hold a jury inquest. A coroner has the power to decide to hold an inquest with a jury in any case where he or she thinks there is sufficient reason.
A jury must be summoned where:
- the deceased died while in custody or state detention, and the death was violent or unnatural, or of unknown cause;
- the death resulted from an act or omission of a police officer or member of a service police force in the purported execution of their duties; or
- the death was caused by an accident, poisoning or disease which must be reported to a government department or inspector. This includes, for example, certain deaths at work.
Jury inquests are no longer required where the deceased died in prison, unless the coroner has reason to suspect that the death was unnatural or of unknown cause.
Deaths in hospitals and nursing homes
Some deaths in the healthcare sector fall within the requirement to have a jury at an inquest. A Health and Safety Executive information sheet provides examples as:
- a confused patient falling from a hospital window on an upper floor;
- a patient being scalded by hot bath water where the patient was vulnerable and adequate precautions were not taken;
- a resident falling in the lounge area, where there is a history of falls but reasonably practicable measures had not been put in place to reduce the risks
- a resident falling out of bed, where an assessment had identified the need for bedrails (or other preventative measures) but these had not been provided.