Most deaths do not result in an inquest, so understandably you may be wondering what the role of a Coroner is, why there is going to be an inquest and what will happen at the inquest hearing.
Coroners are responsible for specific geographical areas. A Coroner will be appointed based on the location where the death took place. If your loved one was not living at home with you at the time of their death, this can mean having to travel some distance to attend hearings in the geographical area in which they died.
A death will be referred to a Coroner where the death occurred in custody (this includes prison, police detention or where there is detention in a psychiatric hospital), the death is violent or unnatural or where the cause of death is unknown.
The main purpose of the inquest is to identify ‘who’ the deceased is, ‘when’ they died, ‘where’ they died and ‘how’ they came by their death. It is a fact-finding process. It is not the role of the inquest to determine issues of civil or criminal liability.
Determining ‘how’ the deceased came by their death can be quite a narrow investigation and focus on the medical cause of death without an examination of some of the wider issues that you may be concerned about. The enactment of the Human Rights Act 1998 made it unlawful for the State to act in a way that infringes rights provided by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), including Article 2 of the ECHR (the right to life). If it is decided that the inquest engages Article 2, then the Coroner will investigate not only ‘how’ the deceased person died, but also investigate ‘in what circumstances’ they died. This can be especially important where your loved one has died due to potential action/in-action by agents of the state. The inquest hearing gives rise to an opportunity for questions to be put to key witnesses and for lessons for learnt.
How We Can Help
At Howells we will help you through the inquest process by:
- Ensuring all relevant documents and witness evidence are obtained and examined
- Representing your interests at any pre-inquest review hearings
- Representing you at the final inquest hearing
If you have suffered a bereavement and the death has been referred to the Coroner, we can help. Our specialist civil liberties team have experience with helping families through the inquest process in many situations including:
Our specialist solicitors are an integral part of the civil litigation team and for those who wish to also bring a civil claim for compensation, we will also be able to advise you on the merits of taking such action.