The role of a Coroner is similar to that of a Judge, they are independent judicial officers. The principal duty of a Coroner is to establish the cause of death on all deaths which occur in the County they work within, they can also make recommendations if they believe that steps must be taken to prevent more deaths occurring at that location or within an establishment. If the deceased suffered an unnatural or violent death then the Coroner must establish the cause of death within an inquest which would take place at the Coroner’s Court.
At an inquest all evidence in relation to the circumstances of the death must be heard by the Coroner, this can include examination of witnesses. Once all of the evidence has been heard the Coroner will reach a verdict and then announce it to the public. There are a number of verdicts that the Coroner can reach when deciding on the cause of death, these include;
- Unlawful Killing
- Natural Causes
- Natural Causes with an element of neglect
- A Narrative Form – describing how a person met their death.
Should a party not be satisfied with the verdict reached at the inquest then an Appeal can be made generally at any time to overturn the verdict if new evidence is available which could cause the original verdict to be incorrect.
Judicial Review is also available for situations when it is felt that the Coroner when reaching the verdict was unreasonable, irrational or acted outside of their jurisdiction and the law. If this is the case then an application for Judicial Review must be lodged within three months of the verdict.
Anyone who is called to give evidence as a witness at an inquest is entitled to have legal representation as is any person who is an interested party at an inquest. The legal representation for the interested party is able to put questions to any witnesses on behalf of the interested party which may assist the Coroner in reaching a verdict.
Richard Armitage has 16 years experience as an Assistant and Deputy Coroner for Warwickshire and is able to give advice and assist any interested party or witness in relation to an inquest. Please contact him if you would like advice in relation to the process and the Coroners Law involved in an inquest, or if you are an interested party or witness at an inquest and would like legal representation.
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