At Levy & Co Solicitors LLP we have experience in dealing with Her Majesty’s Coroner Inquests into the death of a person.
We understand how difficult it can be for someone to provide their evidence in open court to the Coroner and others who may attend.
We will be able to assist in preparing you before and representing you throughout the inquest, including making representations to the Coroner if applicable.
If you are a member of a union it may be that they will support the funding of your representation, although Legal Aid is available in limited circumstances. If you are eligible for Legal Aid our service will be free of charge and we offer competitive private rates if you are not.
We offer a free consultation to advise on your case.
Our most recent success is an inquest whereby our client was entirely exonerated by the jury.
Below is some guidance which you may find useful if you are due to attend a Coroner’s inquest.
What is a Coroner?
A Coroner is an independent judicial office holder. A Coroner must be a lawyer or a doctor and in some cases are both. The costs of Coroners services are met by local authorities.
What do Coroners do?
Coroners enquire into violent or unnatural deaths; sudden deaths of unknown cause and deaths which have occurred in prison. A Coroner’s authority to enquire flows from the report of a body being within the Coroner’s district and not from where the death occurred.
Purpose of the Coroner Service
This is fourfold and the purpose when a death is reported is to:
1. Establish whether a coroner’s inquest is required;
2. If so, to establish the identity of the person who has died. And how, when and where the person came by there death;
3. To assist in the prevention of future deaths; and
4. To provide public reassurance
When is a death reported to a Coroner?
Registrars of Births and Deaths, doctors or the police report deaths to a coroner in certain circumstances. These include where is appears that:
1. No doctor attended the deceased during his or her last illness
2. Although a doctor attended during the last illness the deceased was not seen either within fourteen days before death or after death;
3. The cause of death appears to be unknown;
4. The death occurred during an operation or before recovery from the effects of an anaesthetic;
5. The death occurred at work or was due to industrial disease or poisoning;
6. The death was sudden or unexpected;
7. The death was unnatural;
8. The death was due to violence or neglect;
9. The death was in other suspicious circumstances; or
10. The death occurred in prison, police custody or other state detention.
Coroners next steps when a death is reported
The coroner may ask a pathologist to examine the body and carry out a post-mortem examination (autopsy). The coroner must hold an inquest if the cause of death remains unknown after the intial post-mortem examination and subsequent tests. In such circumstances the death cannot be registered.
What is an inquest?
This is a fact-finding enquiry to establish who has dies, and how, when and where the death occurred. An inquest does not establish any matter of liability or blame. An inquest does not have a prosecution and defence team but will hear evidence from parties.
What happens if someone has been charged with causing the death?
Where a person has been sent for trial for causing, allowing or assisting a death an inquest in most cases will be adjourned until the criminal trial is over.
Is there always a Jury at an inquest?
Most inquests are held without a jury. Particular circumstances give rise to the presence of a jury:
1. The death occurred in prison or in police custody; or
2. If the death resulted from an accident at work.
The jury simply have to decide the facts of the case and reach a verdict. The jury cannot blame someone for the death. The coroner will deal with all matters of law.
Is Legal Aid available?
Legal Aid is not generally available for representation at inquests because it is a fact finding process. Legal Aid will be made available where applicants qualify financially and meet strict criteria for representation to be funded as follows:
1. Significant wider public interest in the applicant being represented at the inquest; or
2. The applicant is a member of the deceased’s immediate family and funding is necessary to enable the coroner to investigate the case effectively and establish the facts.
Possible conclusions as suggested by the Coroners Rules 1984 include:
- Natural Cause;
- Accident or misadventure;
- He or she killed him/herself (i.e. suicide)
- Unlawful killing;
- Lawful killing;
- Industrial disease; or
- Open verdict (insufficient evidence for any other verdict)
Alternatively, the coroner may give a narrative verdict which sets out the facts surrounding the death in more detail and explains the reasons for the decision.