Guide to Coroner's Services
The 'Guide to coroner services' is primarily for bereaved people but others involved in or affected by a coroner investigation or attending a coroner's inquest may also find it helpful.
Formal Inquests will be held in a designated Courtroom within the Council House.
Attending an Inquest
Inquests are generally held in open court, where the press and public can attend. Depending upon the circumstances of the case, there may also a jury present.
Further information about jury service, including details of expenses a juror can claim, can be found on the GovUK website here.
If you are interested in attending an inquest you can find the weekly court list by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page (Inquest List).
Please note that all hearings are listed as 'not before' a certain time, they can begin any time after that listed. The list is updated on Friday evening for the following week.
We list different types of hearings:
Opening of an inquest, this is a short hearing to formally commence the inquest process, during this hearing the presiding coroner will confirm the identity of the individual, the cause of death (if known) and the type of case. They will then adjourn until a later date. No evidence is heard at an opening
A Pre Inquest Review (PIR), this is an administrative hearing where all the properly interested persons (PIPs) attend court with the allocated coroner so that the coroner can review the case and provide direction. Not all cases require a PIR. No evidence is heard at a PIR
- Completion hearing - this is the final stage in the inquest process, the Coroner hears or reads witness evidence and makes a formal conclusion. A completion is heard with or without the presence of a jury
The type of case is noted on the court list. If you are a medical student wishing to attend an inquest, you may find attending a medical completion more relevant to your course. If you plan on attending with fellow students as part of your course, we suggest the ideal number attend is 4.
It is important to remember that bereaved family and friends may be in attendance, we respectfully ask that all court attendees bear this in mind and act with sensitivity.
If you are attending an inquest please ensure you arrive 15 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin and inform the reception desk at the Council House when you arrive. Dress for the court is smart casual unless you are a witness and are instructed otherwise.
Please note, all hearings are recorded.
You may request a copy of a recording either by CD or email MP3 transfer by clicking here. There is a charge of £5 per inquest.
Post Mortem Examinations
One of the roles of a coroner is to determine the cause of death and decide whether the circumstances of the death need further investigation.
In the majority of cases, a doctor who knew the person in life can propose a cause of death if the coroner is satisfied with this then no further medical investigation may be required.
However, in some cases, the coroner will need to ask a pathologist to examine the body after death and provide an opinion to help the coroner determine the cause of death.
That examination after death is known as a post-mortem examination (PME). The PME can take up to 10 workings days of HM Coroner’s instruction, with interim results usually provided soon after and a full report following.
Some families may request a non-invasive PME due to their religious or cultural beliefs and we are keen to meet these wishes wherever possible.
Non-invasive PMEs, also known as digital autopsies, involve a CT scan of the deceased with a consultant radiologist then providing the results to the pathologist for them to include in their report to the coroner. Digital autopsies are not always conclusive and therefore it may be that an invasive post mortem examination is still required.
Doctors' Reporting Form
Please do not use these addresses to email the office out of hours if you are not a doctor reporting a death.
Direct referrals should only be made to Miss Casey's secure email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, between 5 pm on Friday and 8 am on Monday and during bank holidays.
This should only be done when the case needs to be referred to the coroner as per the downloadable guidance note below and it is necessary to expedite matters for cultural and religious reasons.
Such referrals should always be marked 'Urgent Referral' in the subject box. These cases will be considered each day at 10 am. If you are not on duty to receive a response at that time, please ensure an alternative contact is given.
Please note: A case does not need to be referred to the coroner simply because the family have requested the expedited release of the body for cultural and religious reasons. Please consult the guide below to see whether a referral is appropriate. Referrals should only be made by doctors. Families are asked to refrain from using this email address.
All other referrals are to be made via email@example.com.
- Guidance on deaths to be reported to the Coroner
- Guidance for Registered Medical Practitioners on the Notification of Deaths
Witness Support Service
This is a voluntary service to assist those attending inquest hearings. Our volunteers provide practical advice, support and assistance to families and witnesses when attending inquests.
If you would be interested in volunteering some of your time to be a witness support officer, or for any queries relating to this, please email firstname.lastname@example.org