Coroners operate within a legal framework and have a duty to investigate all deaths of unknown cause, violent or unnatural deaths and deaths that occur in custody.
The coroner investigates deaths in order to establish who, where and when a person died and how, meaning by what means, a person has died. It may be necessary for a CT scan, or a more rarely, post mortem examination to be carried out to determine the cause of death.
Certain deaths require an inquest that will be conducted in a local court by the coroner.
Deaths that need to be reported to the coroner
The registrar will report the following deaths to the coroner if not already reported to by someone else:
- where there is no doctor who can issue a medical certificate of cause of death
- where the deceased was not seen by the doctor issuing the medical certificate either after death or within 14 days before the death
- where the cause of death is unknown
- where the cause of death is believed to be unnatural or suspicious
- where the death occurred during an operation or before recovery from an anaesthetic
- where the death is due to industrial disease or industrial poisoning
When the funeral can be held
If the coroner’s investigation, a CT scan or a post mortem reveal that the death was due to natural causes the coroner's enquires will cease and the coroner will release the body to the next of kin, executors or administrators. The death can then be registered with the Registrar of Births Marriages and Deaths and the funeral can then take place. A registrar cannot register the death or issue a death certificate until the body is released by the coroner.
If an inquest is needed, a death cannot be registered until the inquest has been completed. In these circumstances, the coroner will usually issue a certificate that will allow the funeral to take place.
Non-invasive post mortem examinations
Non-suspicious deaths will usually be investigated by way of a non-invasive post mortem or CT scan. Consequently, in the majority of cases, an invasive autopsy will not be needed in order to determine the cause of death. The coroner does not legally require the consent of the next of kin for any type of post mortem but will listen to objections that the family wish to raise. The coroner's officer will discuss with the family of the deceased what type of post mortem is to be undertaken and why this is necessary. Non-suspicious deaths will now, initially, use a non-invasive post mortem examination.
In a limited number of cases a cause of death will not be able to be determined from a CT scan and the coroner may need to ask a pathologist to conduct a limited or full invasive post mortem.
Copies of the CT/post mortem report will normally be available to the next of kin and to certain other properly interested persons. A fee may be payable. Please contact your local coroner's office.
An inquest is an inquiry into:
- Who has died
- When and where the death occurred, and
- How, meaning by what means, the death occurred
An inquest is not a trial and it is not the coroner’s job to deal with questions of civil or criminal liability. Possible conclusions include: natural causes, accident, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing, industrial disease, and open conclusions where there is insufficient evidence for any other conclusion. Narrative conclusions, which are a short statement of facts found proved, can also be made.
Access to medical records by the coroner
Medical records remain confidential after death. However, the coroner has powers to request medical information that is relevant and necessary to their enquiries.
Taking the body abroad or bringing it back to this country
If you wish to take the body abroad, you must give written notice to the coroner. The coroner will advise when the body can be released to be taken abroad.
If you wish to bring the body back to England or Wales, the coroner may need to be involved. In certain circumstances, an inquest may be necessary. You can ask for advice from your local coroner's office.
Reporting treasure finds to the coroner
The coroner also deals with finds that may be classed as treasure.
2 Faraday Court
Telephone: 01772 536536
Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen
HM Senior Coroner
Dr James R H Adeley
HM Area Coroners
Mr Richard Taylor
Mr James Newman