What is an inquest?
It is an investigation by a Coroner and held in public to:
- Identify the medical cause of death, and
- Answer four questions: who died, when, where and how?
Inquests are fact finding exercises and not supposed to be adversarial as for example, criminal trials are.
In the Chief Coroner’s Report 2014-15, is stated that “..coroners have two main functions. First, in relation to each death reported to them they explain the unexplained. If the death is not from natural causes, if it is unnatural, violent, in custody or of unknown cause, coroners will investigate so that answers are found, both for bereaved families in the first place but also for the wider public. So, it follows that an inquest is an opportunity for families to learn more about the circumstances leading up to the death of their loved one.
The second function of coroners, where appropriate, is to report to prevent future deaths. The Chief Coroner has issued guidance which states “Coroners have a duty not just to decide how somebody came by their death but also, where appropriate, to report about that death with a view to preventing future deaths” You may hear coroners and their officers refer to these reports as PFDs, PFD reports or regulation 28 reports.
Coroners now arrive at conclusions which previously had been called verdicts.
How can we help with an inquest?
We can give you information and share our knowledge so that you gain a good understanding of the inquest process and feel more able to contribute should you so wish.
We can also advocate on your behalf before and during inquest hearings (where the Coroner agrees to this), but we are not legally qualified.
You can review the briefing on domestic violence that we were asked to compile by the Ministry of Justice. This briefing has now been distributed to all Coroners as of June 2014.