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About the Coroner

The Coroner has a statutory duty to investigate all unexpected or "unnatural" deaths and to decide whether an inquest is necessary to determine the cause of death.  The doctor, police or Registrar of Births and Deaths will therefore inform the Coroner of the death, and you will then be contacted by the Coroner's office, usually within one working day. 

The Coroner's office will answer your questions and give you a named individual to contact during their investigations.  They will act with compassion and without judgement about the deceased and the cause of death. Wherever possible they will take account of your family and cultural preferences relating to mourning, post-mortem examinations and funerals.

You are expected to co-operate fully with the Coroner's office and to provide promptly all information relevant to the investigation, including any worries or concerns you may have about the death.

The Coroner will normally request that a post-mortem examination be carried out, and if this conclusively shows the cause of death (s)he will send a form to the Registrar of Births and Deaths, and you will then be able to make an appointment to register the death.

If the Coroner decides that an inquest is necessary it will be opened as quickly as possible.  There will be a brief hearing to open and adjourn the inquest, which you will be able to attend if you wish.  You will not necessarily be required to do so, although it may be necessary in order to give evidence of identification.

The Coroner will then be able to issue an interim death certificate which will allow you to hold the funeral.  Inquest hearings are usually held in public and the press and media may be present.

It may be several weeks or months before the full inquest hearing and during this time the Coroner's office should keep you informed of progress and the reasons for any delay.  If you would like someone to support you through the investigation process, you should discuss this with the Coroner's office as soon as possible.

You may request copies of post-mortem reports and of documents relevant to the investigation.  There is no charge for these prior to the inquest, though there may be a charge afterwards.

If you wish to dispute the outcome of the inquest, this must be done within three months of the end of the investigation.  If you wish to complain about the standard of service you receive, there are details of the complaints procedure in the Guide to Coroner Services 2014.

Information taken from the Ministry of Justice Guide to Coroner Services 2014

There is also a Short Guide to Coroner Services on the GOV.UK website: Short guide to Coroner services and investigations