Frequently Asked Questions

These Frequently Asked Questions for the Coroner’s Service for Leicester City and South Leicestershire relates to the services of HM Coroners Services in Leicester City and South Leicestershire. Download a copy of our Frequently Asked Questions

 

Why are the police involved?

The police act on behalf of the Coroner.

The purpose of the visit is to obtain the information that the Coroner needs to conduct their enquiries and to provide the correct personal information to the Registrar.

What are the duties of a Coroners Officer?

To obtain factual information from the next of kin to assist the Coroners inquiry.

To guide you through the time leading up to an Inquest if one is necessary.

What happens if someone dies in Scotland or abroad?

When the body of the deceased arrives within the County, the Coroners jurisdiction arises and the death is then treated in exactly the same way as if the death had occurred here, rather than abroad. The only difference is that the Death Certificate will be issued in the country where the death occurred rather than by the Registrar here.

What happens if I wish to move the body of the deceased out of England and Wales?

The Coroner must give permission (an "Out of England Order") for a body to be moved out of England or Wales. This permission has to be obtained at least four days before the body is to be moved (although the Coroner may be able to give permission sooner) so that any necessary enquiries may be carried out. The Funeral Director will make all the necessary arrangements.

Permission must be obtained whenever the funeral is to take place outside England or Wales.

This procedure applies in all cases where the body is to be moved out of England or Wales, not just where a death was reported to the Coroner.

What if the deceased dies unexpectedly in hospital?

If the death occurs in hospital and the cause of death is unknown, the Coroner will arrange for the post-mortem examination to be carried out by a pathologist. If the deceased is a young child, a paediatric pathologist will be instructed.

Why is the Coroner Involved?

The Coroner has a duty to investigate and record the details of any death where the cause is not known, violent or unnatural deaths and any deaths whilst the deceased was legally detained.

When a death is reported to the Coroner (s)he may:

be satisfied by the doctor as to the cause of death and proceed no further  

decide to carry out a post-mortem, and on the results of that examination discontinue the investigation (ie when it is a natural cause of death).

hold an inquest after a post-mortem examination  

What is a post-mortem?

This is an examination to determine the medical cause of death. In some cases organs or tissue samples may be retained for further investigation. The post-mortem will be carried out by a consultant pathologist (when a young child dies a paediatric pathologist will carry out the examination).

Why have a post-mortem?

If the deceaseds own GP or the hospital doctor cannot give a medical cause of death then an examination must take place to determine the cause.

Can I object to a post-mortem?

No. The Coroner has a legal duty to ascertain the cause of death, and if the doctor cannot satisfy the Coroner of this a post-mortem examination must take place.

Who organises and pays for the transport of the deceased to and from the post-mortem?

The Coroner's officer will organise the removal of the deceased to the hospital.  The Coroner's office will pay for this service.

You may appoint a Funeral Director of your choice to organise the funeral.

What happens if the deceased wished to be an organ donor?

Donation of organs is regulated by the Human Tissue Authority.

Further information on frequently asked questions related to this topic can be found on the FAQ - Coroner   page of the Human Tissue Authority website (www.hta.org.uk).

You and the Coroner will liaise with the doctor or hospital so that the necessary arrangements can be made as soon as possible. The desire to donate organs must not however impede the Coroners duty to ascertain the cause of death.

Why organs are sometimes removed from the body and what happens to these?

Sometimes the pathologist needs to carry out a more detailed investigation of particular organs in order to establish the cause of death. If he /she does this then the pathologist must tell the Coroner for how long the organs should be retained. The Coroner will notify the family of this and ask them to tell him what they wish to happen to the organs at the end of that period. Usually, the pathologist only needs to take a very small sample of an organ, rather than removing the organ itself. This sample then forms part of the medical records.

Do I have to accept the result of a post-mortem?

No. You can ask the Coroner for a second post-mortem but this will be at your cost and you will need to make all the arrangements yourself.

Will a post-mortem delay the funeral?

Not usually. The Coroner and pathologist understand the desire on the part of the family to deal with matters expeditiously, particularly in cases where the religious or cultural beliefs of the family require a funeral to be held within a particular time period. However there are some cases where a slight delay occurs. In such cases an explanation will be given to the family together with an estimate of how long the delay will be. In cases where an organ is removed for further examination the body of the child can be released to the family immediately so that the funeral can be held without further delay.  However, if there is a wish for the organ to be re-united with the body before the funeral then there will be a delay in releasing the body.  You will be advised how long this is likely to be.

Can I have a copy of the post-mortem report?

The Coroner will usually supply a copy of the report to "interested" persons family, legal representatives of involved in the inquest) on application. The Coroners Officer will usually explain the main points of the report to the family as soon as it is available. Your G.P. will be able to answer questions in more detail.

Who are Interested Persons'?

They are the people who have a right to participate in the Inquest, by receiving copy statements and asking questions at the hearing and are known as Properly Interested Persons.

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 sets out a list of who falls within this definition at S47.

When can I get a death certificate /Interim Death Certificate?

When the Coroner is given a cause of death by the doctor, the doctor and the Coroner will notify the Registrar of the death. This will happen normally within 24hrs. You may then ring the Registrar to make an appointment to visit the Registrar and register the death. You must do this in person.

If the Coroner has decided to hold a post-mortem and when (s)he receives the report does not require an inquest to be held, (s)he will send a certificate to the Registrar to register the death. (This happens usually within 24hrs of the report being received by the Coroner). The Coroners Officer will have told you the main points of the report and will tell you where when and how you may obtain a certificate.

If the Coroner has decided to hold an inquest then a full death certificate will not be available until after the inquest is concluded. However to enable the family to deal with banks, insurance companies, pension provider, National Savings, or any other body which needs official confirmation of the death the coroner will, on request, issue an "Interim Certificate as to the Fact Of Death", more commonly known as an "INTERIM DEATH CERTIFICATE".  The interim certificate is not a death certificate. Copies of this are supplied to the next of kin once the Inquest has been opened. Do not send all copies away keep one copy in case you need to have certified copies made for other institutions.

Where do I get a death certificate?

Death certificates are issued by the local Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Why hold an inquest?

The Coroner is required to establish who died, how, when and where.

"How" is defined as both the medical cause of death and the way in which the death came about.

The Coroner must also reach a conclusion about such deaths, (e.g. accident, misadventure, suicide etc.)

The Coroner is NOT concerned with matters of fault or blame.

Where needed, an inquest will be opened to take evidence of identity and brief circumstances before being adjourned to allow a full investigation to be conducted. The inquest is then resumed when the Coroner will consider (in public) all the evidence before making the findings that the law demands.

When will the Inquest be held?

Where reasonably practicable the inquest will be held within 6 months of the date of when the death was reported. There are some cases that take a considerable amount of time to enquire into and it may not be possible to hold the final hearing within 6 months.  However, if this is the case you will be notified of this, given reasons for it and the case will be regularly reviewed by the Coroner to avoid unnecessary delays.

If there is a criminal prosecution in relation to the death then (depending upon the charges brought) the inquest will be adjourned until the outcome of those proceedings is known.  Depending upon the nature of those proceedings (e.g. a murder trial) the Coroner may decide that it is not necessary for the inquest to be resumed because all the information that the Coroner needs has been disclosed in the course of that trial.  The Coroner, in such a case, will then register the death as if an inquest had been held. Information regarding the inquest can be obtained from this site.

Do I have to go to the inquest?

You are only obliged to attend an inquest if you have received a witness summons to attend.  It is an offence to disregard the summons.

What happens in an inquest?

The Coroner will explain how the inquest is to be conducted. (S)He will then determine who is present and if there is any legal representation. Evidence is then given either:

on oath by witnesses in person

by statements being read into evidence by the Coroner

from reports, plans or other documents with which the Coroner has been provided

the Coroner will then consider all the evidence and reach his/her conclusions

the Coroner will record the details required by the Registration Act which will allow her to register the death on behalf of the family 

Can members of the family speak at the Inquest?

Yes.  The Coroner will ask you if you have any questions for individual witnesses or about the content of any statement or document which is read out.

The Coroner will then assess the evidence and announce publicly, their findings.

You may be asked to confirm certain personal details of the deceased as required by the Registration Acts to enable the Coroner to register the death.

Why do some inquests have a jury?

The Coroners and Justice Act 2009 requires a jury in certain types of case.  The majority of inquests are conducted by the Coroner alone. Although the procedure with a jury Inquest is rather different the function and purpose of the inquest remains the same.

Will I/the family need a solicitor?

It is not usually necessary to be legally represented at an inquest because an inquest is an inquiry conducted by the Coroner and not a trial. You may wish to be legally represented at the inquest.  You can take advice from any firm of solicitors or Advice Centre as to the best way of dealing with this. The Coroner cannot advise you on which solicitor you should consult.

What does it mean if I am called as a witness?

Witnesses are called to the inquest to tell the Coroner what they know or what they saw or did in connection with the death that the Coroner is investigating. This may be because you witnessed the incident in which the deceased died or because you have information that explains why certain things were done which shed light on the circumstances surrounding the death.

Witnesses give evidence on oath, either by swearing on a Holy Book to tell the truth or by making a solemn declaration (called an Affirmation) that the evidence to be given is the truth.

If you require a Holy Book other than the Christian Bible on which to swear the oath please inform the Coroners Office in advance of the Inquest.

The Coroner questions the witness so that the evidence, which the witness can give, is fully explored. After the Coroners questions the family or other properly interested persons may, with the consent of the Coroner, ask questions.

Do I/the family have to accept the conclusion of the Inquest?

It is sometimes possible to challenge the conclusion of the Coroner, on a matter of law, by way of an application to the High Court for a judicial review. You should take legal advice about such a course of action as soon as possible after the Coroner has made a decision.

Will the press be present?

The press have the right to be present. An inquest MUST be held in public.  The media are not entitled to any more information than that which is given in court.

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