The coroner is an independent officer with the statutory responsibility for the legal investigation of some categories of deaths. The coroner is either a doctor or a lawyer by background, and is supported by a team of coroner’s officers, who investigate any deaths which are referred to the coroner.
The coroner is usually involved with any deaths that are:-
This list is not exhaustive, and there are also many other reasons why a doctor may refer a death to the coroner. If your relative/friend died in hospital, the Care After Death Team will be able to advise you if a referral has been made to the coroner.
Once the coroner has received the referral, one of the coroner’s officers will contact you within a day or two to discuss the referral with you and listen to any views you may have. They will be able to answer any questions you have about the coronial process, advise you on next steps and support you.
If the coroner is satisfied that there is no investigation needed into your relative/friend’s death, they will advise the doctor to proceed with writing the Medical Cause of Death Certificate. This means you can proceed with registration once the certificate has been completed by the doctor.
Sometimes, the coroner may feel that further investigation is needed, and this investigation may include an inquest. When this happens, the doctor will no longer need to issue the Medical Cause of Death Certificate and the Coroner’s Office will take over all aspects of paperwork relating to the death.
An inquest is a public court hearing held by the coroner to decide who died, how, when and where the death happened. This can be with or without the need for a post mortem examination of your relative/friend.
The coroner’s officers will clearly explain to you what happens next and explain the procedure if this happens, as well as discuss with you the decision by the coroner about whether a post mortem examination is needed.
You can find more detailed information about the role of the coroner and what you can expect by following this link to 'A Guide to Coroner Services for Bereaved People', in PDF format, on the UK Government website.
The contact number for the Coroner’s Office is 01792 450650.
Going through an inquest can be upsetting and complicated at an already difficult time for you and your family. If you need any support during this process, our Care After Death Team are available to help you get the support you need. You can find their contact details on the Bereavement Support homepage.