Coroners are usually lawyers but in some cases they may be doctors. Coroners are independent judicial officers - this means that no-one can tell them or direct them as to what they should do but they must follow the laws and regulations which apply to Coroners.
A Coroner enquires into those deaths reported to him or her. It is the Coroner’s duty to find out the medical cause of the death, if it is not known, and to enquire about the cause of it if it was due to violence or otherwise appears to be unnatural. There are a number of occasions when a death will be reported to the Coroner e.g. when no doctor has treated the deceased during his or her last illness or when the death was sudden or unexpected or unnatural.
An Inquest is a factual inquiry to find out who has died, and how, when and where they died, together with information needed by the registrar of deaths, so that the death can be registered.
An Inquest is not a trial. It is a limited inquiry into the facts surrounding a death. It is not the job of the Coroner to blame anyone for the death, as a trial would do.
A Coroner normally sits alone, although the law does require a Coroner to sit with a jury in a limited number of circumstances including: if the death occurred in prison or in police custody or if the death resulted from an incident at work.
With regard to witnesses, the Coroner decides who should be called and the order in which they give evidence. Anyone who has what is called "a proper interest" may take part in, be represented and question a witness at the Inquest. They can be: