The Coroner investigates any sudden or unexplained death. The Coroner has to be either a Solicitor, Barrister or a Registered Medical Practitioner of at least five years standing. They are appointed by the relevant Local Authority, and are Judicial Officers who are quite independent of both local and central government and are required to act in accordance with certain rules of procedure.
It is impossible for a Coroner to carry out all of his functions entirely alone. Generally, the Coroner receives information through and makes his enquiries by means of Coroner’s Officers. In the vast majority of cases they receive the initial reports of death from the Police, Medical Practitioners etc. Under the Coroner’s supervision they make appropriate enquiries and obtain additional information. They liaise with the family of the deceased and all the other appropriate agencies or individuals. They also help to organise any inquest proceedings and deal with day to day administrative matters.
Some Reasons Why A Death Is Referred To The Coroner
In most cases the deceased’s own Doctor or a Doctor at the Hospital will be able to ascertain the cause of death and issue a certificate to allow registration by the Register of Births and Deaths. There are some instances, however, when circumstances dictate that a Doctor cannot issue a certificate and is legally obliged to refer the death to the Coroner.
- The death is sudden and unexplained.
- The death is the result of an accident.
- The cause of death is unknown.
- The medical certificate suggests that the death is due to an industrial disease or industrial poisoning.
- The death occurred while in custody or otherwise in state detention.
- The death was as a result of a medical mishap.
- The death was violent or unnatural.
- The person who died was not visited by a medical practitioner during their final illness.
- The person who died wasn’t seen by the doctor who signed the medical certificate within 14 days before death or after they died.
After A Death Is Referred To The Coroner
The Coroner will seek to establish the cause of death and will make whatever inquiries are necessary to do this, for example – ordering a post mortem examination, obtaining witness statements and medical records, or holding an inquest.
In most cases the cause of death will be determined after a post mortem and the deceased will be released to the Funeral Director and the funeral can take place. If the cause of death cannot be determined after a post mortem or further investigation is necessary then the Coroner will instigate an inquest. In cases such as a death in Police custody or in prison then an inquest is mandatory.
An inquest is an inquiry to ascertain who has died as well as how, when and where the death occurred. Normally an inquest is opened to formally record the fact of death and identify the deceased. The inquest would then be adjourned to a later date to allow any investigation to be completed. The funeral can normally take place after the inquest has been adjourned but registration of the death will be after the inquest has concluded.
Contact Details For Local Coroner’s Officers
The Police Office, Northway, Scarborough, YO12 7AD
Telephone: 101 – when prompted select option 2, then ask for the Coroner’s Officer.