Who will be in Court?
Inquests are held in a publicly open court. Friends and family of the deceased are welcome to attend. If you would prefer not to attend because you may find the hearing too distressing that is understandable. If you do attend however you can choose to leave the Court room during certain points of evidence that may be especially emotive.
The Coroner will also require other witnesses to attend. This will be different for each case, but may include doctors, nurses, police officers, carers, eyewitnesses and any other relevant people.
Because Inquests are public hearings we cannot exclude the press and media but you do not have to interact with media representatives if you would prefer not to do so. We cannot prevent accounts of the Inquest being published or broadcast.
How long will the Inquest take?
Inquest hearings can last anything from 30 minutes to several days or weeks. It depends what has happened and what issues need to be explored. We will endeavour to give you an estimate when the final arrangements are being made.
The Coroner may require you to give evidence during the Inquest if you have factual information that could assist with the Coroner's inquiry.
Please arrive at least 15 minutes before the Inquest is due to start. If you have received a disclosure file from the Coroner's Office please bring this with you together with equipment to make notes. On your arrival you will be met by either the Court Officer or a member of the Coroner's Court Support Service (CCSS). They will explain what will happen and clear up any questions or concerns. Families will be asked how they would like their loved one to be called during the Inquest. You will then either be seated in the waiting area or go straight through into the court room.
There is no dress code but we ask that people dress reasonably smartly being mindful of the formality of proceedings and in respect to the family.
When the time comes to give your evidence, the Coroner will call you to the witness stand. You will need to take an oath or affirmation that you will give truthful evidence. You can do this on the New Testament or make a non-religious solemn promise. If you wish to use a holy book other than the New Testament, you will need to bring your preferred holy book and let the court staff know. The Coroner will then guide you through your evidence. If the Coroner has questions following a witness' evidence, she will ask them first and then the Interested Persons will have the opportunity to ask further relevant questions.
Once you have given your evidence you will usually be free to go but please ask the Coroner for permission before you leave. You are of course welcome to stay for the remainder of the hearing.
If you have been asked to attend Court as a witness you may be able to claim travelling expenses and loss of earnings. Please ask the Court Officer for a claim form.
It may be that evidence is to be admitted without the witness being present; this is in accordance with Rule 23 of the Coroner's (Inquest) Rules 2013. The Coroner or the Coroner's Officer will either read the witness statement in full or the relevant parts onto the record.
The Coroner's conclusion will be based on all the evidence that is heard. Interested Persons or their legal representatives will have the opportunity to address the Coroner on the law and conclusions before he makes his final decision (but this is not an opportunity to rehearse the facts again). The available short form conclusions are;
- Alcohol related
- Drug related
- Industrial disease
- Lawful killing
- Unlawful killing
- Natural causes
- Road traffic collision
As an alternative the Coroner may also give a brief narrative conclusion. For example, in a medical case the Coroner may use such words as 'died from recognised complications of a necessary surgical procedure'.