When a Coroner takes jurisdiction over death, the family raises many worries and concerns. The Coroner's work is often unknown and, for many, a complex involvement. Hopefully, the following will answer some of your questions, although if you still require further clarification, please do not hesitate to speak with a member of our family.
Who are the Coroners?
Coroners are independent judicial officers in England and Wales who must follow laws that apply to Coroners and inquests. Each Coroner has a deputy, and one must be available to deal with matters relating to the inquests and post-mortems.
What do Coroners do?
Coroners inquire into deaths reported to them, which appear to be violent, unnatural, or of sudden and unknown cause. The Coroner will seek to establish the medical cause of death; if the cause remains in doubt after a post-mortem, an inquest will be held.
Taking the body abroad or bringing it back to this country
If you wish to take the body abroad, you must notify the Coroner. The Coroner will tell you within four days whether further enquiries are needed. If you want to bring the body back to England or Wales, the Coroner may need to be involved. In certain circumstances, an inquest may be necessary. Removing human remains overseas from Scotland will align with current Scottish law, and we can guide you should you need help.
Are all deaths reported to the Coroner?
No. In most cases, a GP or hospital doctor can certify the medical cause of death, and the Registrar of Births and Deaths can register the death in the usual way. However, registrars must report deaths to the Coroner in certain circumstances. For example: if a doctor cannot give a proper certificate of a cause of death; if the death occurred during an operation; if the death was due to industrial disease; if the death was unnatural or due to violence or other suspicious circumstances.
What is a Post Mortem examination?
A post-mortem is a medical examination of a body carried out for the Coroner by a pathologist of the Coroner's choice. Coroners will give notice of the need for a post-mortem unless this is not practicable or would unduly delay the examination.
When can the funeral be held?
If a post-mortem reveals that the death was due to natural causes and that an inquest is unnecessary, the Coroner will release the body, and you can register the death. The funeral can then take place. If there is an inquest, the Coroner can issue a burial order or cremation certificate after the post-mortem is completed. Suppose charges have been brought against somebody for causing the death. In that case, it may be necessary to have a second post-mortem or further investigation, which will delay the body's release and funeral arrangements.
Issue of the Death Certificate
If the death were due to natural causes, the Coroner would inform the Registrar, and the death can register the death and a death certificate issued. If there is an inquest, the Coroner can issue an Interim Certificate to assist in administering the estate. When the inquest is concluded, the Coroner will notify the Registrar; you can obtain a death certificate.
What is an Inquest?
An inquest is an inquiry into who has died and how, when, and where the death occurred. An inquest is not a trial; the Coroner must not blame anyone for the death. An inquest is opened primarily to record death and identify the dead person. It will then be adjourned until any police enquiries and the Coroner's investigations are completed. The full inquest can then be resumed.
Attendance at an Inquest
When the Coroner's investigations are complete, a date for the resumed inquest is set and will tell the people entitled to be notified if their details are known to the Coroner. Inquests are open to the public, and journalists are usually present.
Witnesses called to give evidence.
Coroners decide who should give evidence as a witness. Anyone who believes they may help can offer to provide evidence by informing the Coroner. Anyone who thinks the Coroner should call witnesses should notify the Coroner. The Coroner can compel witnesses to attend.
Inquests with a Jury
The inquest will be held with a jury if the death occurs in prison, in custody, at work or if further deaths may occur in similar circumstances. In these cases, the Coroner will decide matters of law, and the jury will decide the verdict. Inquests do not determine blame, and the judgment must not identify someone with criminal or civil liability. Possible verdicts include natural causes, accidents, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing, industrial disease, and open verdicts (with insufficient evidence for any other judgment). The Coroner may also report the death to any appropriate person or authority if action is needed to prevent more deaths in similar circumstances.