FAQs

What is the purpose of an inquest?

Coroners are independent judicial officers who work within a legal framework established by Act of Parliament. A Coroner's inquest is a process for investigating the factual circumstances of a death. It is a fact-finding process to establish the answers to:

  • Who the deceased was;
  • When and where the death occurred;
  • How the deceased came by his or her death; and any
  • Particulars required by the Registration Acts to be registered concerning the death

The proceedings and evidence are aimed solely at ascertaining the answers to these questions. Expressions of opinion on any other matter - for example, determining criminal or civil liability - are not allowed. However, the Coroner does have the power to investigate not just the main cause of death, but also ‘any acts or omissions which directly led to the cause of death’.

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Where are the hearings being held?

The hearings are held in court 73, Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London, WC2A 2LL.

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Do the media have access?

Yes.

 Those attending the Inquest should note that the courtroom will be subject to the same restrictions as would apply to normal court proceedings. When the court is sitting the use of mobile telephones, other communications or recording equipment, cameras and personal stereos is strictly prohibited. Furthermore, additional security protocols may be effected.

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Do the public have access?

Yes.

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Are transcripts of proceedings and evidence made public?

The Coroner publishes on this website transcripts of proceedings that take place in open court. Where possible the Coroner publishes evidence seen and heard in open court during the course of the Inquest.

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Who can be called to give evidence in an inquest?

The Coroner is solely responsible for deciding which witnesses will be heard and the legitimate scope of questions, although of course the views of the Interested Persons are sought. Witnesses who are called to give evidence are those who can provide material and relevant evidence on the issues identified.

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Can witnesses be compelled to attend or provide evidence for an inquest?

The Coroner can compel witnesses to give evidence if they are in the jurisdiction and are properly summonsed. If witnesses are outside the jurisdiction the Coroner can ask the authorities concerned to exercise their powers, which may vary according to the relevant jurisdiction.

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What are the possible outcomes in an inquest?

Possible verdicts available to a Coroner include: natural causes, accident, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing, industrial disease, and open verdicts (where there is insufficient evidence for any other verdict). There may also be a narrative verdict which sets out in narrative form how the person died.

 The Coroner may also report the death to any appropriate person or authority, if action is needed to prevent more deaths in similar circumstances.

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Who may take part in and can be represented at an inquest?

Anyone deemed by the Coroner to have what is called ‘a proper interest’ may ask relevant questions of a witness at an inquest. They can be:

  • a parent, spouse, child, partner and representing the estate of the deceased;
  • anyone who gains from a life insurance policy on the deceased;
  • any insurer having issued such a policy;
  • anyone whose actions the Coroner believes may have caused or contributed to the death, accidentally or otherwise;
  • the chief officer of police (who may only ask witnesses questions through a lawyer);
  • any person appointed by a government department to attend the inquest; and
  • anyone else who the coroner decides also has a proper interest.

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Will there be a jury?

Yes. A jury is required by virtue of s.8(3)(b) Coroner’s Act 1988.