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The Coroner

What is a Coroner?

A coroner is a judicial officer, usually a qualified doctor or lawyer, who is responsible for investigating the circumstances surrounding any death which occurs under unusual or unnatural circumstances, or is thought to be due to certain industrial diseases. A coroner also becomes involved in the investigation of deaths which occur during surgical procedures, whilst under an anaesthetic, whilst in the custody of the police or in prison, or in circumstances where the cause of death is in some way unclear.

The coroner may request that a pathologist perform a post-mortem examination of the deceased (an autopsy) in order to look for signs of disease or injury that may account for the death. Additionally, a coroner may consider it necessary to hold a formal enquiry into the individual case, called an inquest.

What is the purpose of an inquest?

An inquest is a fact-finding enquiry, with the sole objective of determining the answers to the following questions:

  1. Who is it that has died?

  2. When and where did the death occur?

  3. How did the determined cause of death come about? What was the nature of the death, and what was the nature of the contributory events preceding it?

An inquest is usually opened in the first few days following the death, in order to record the fact of death, and is then subsequently adjourned. The inquest is re-opened and completed once all necessary police enquiries and coroner's investigations have been completed.

An inquest is not a criminal trial. It is an inquiry into the facts surrounding a death. It is not the job of the coroner to place blame or responsibility for the death, as a trial would do. However, the coroner does have the power to investigate not just the main cause of death, but also "any acts or omissions which directly led to the cause of death".

What are the possible verdicts of an inquest?

A range of different outcomes are possible following an inquest. Verdicts may fall into any of the following categories:

  1. Natural causes (i.e. organic disease)

  2. Accident or misadventure

  3. Suicide

  4. Unlawful or lawful killing

  5. Industrial disease

  6. Open verdict (a result of insufficient evidence for a death to be categorized into any other group)

Sometimes the inquest will show that something needs to be done to prevent a recurrence. The coroner can draw attention to this publicly and will write to someone in authority about it, for example the council or a government department

Are witnesses called to an inquest?

The coroner decides who to ask and the order in which they give evidence. Any person who wants to give evidence can come forward at an inquest without being summoned by the coroner, but the evidence must be relevant to the inquest. A person who wants to give evidence should contact the coroner as soon as possible after the death.

The evidence of a witness may be vital in preventing injustice, and they may have to pay a penalty if they do not attend. A witness will normally receive a formal summons to attend the inquest. In certain circumstances, a signed statement or other document may be given in evidence.

Anyone who has "a proper interest" may question a witness at the inquest. They may be represented by lawyers or, if they prefer, ask questions themselves. The questions must be sensible and relevant. This is something the coroner will decide. There are no speeches.

"Properly interested individuals" would normally include:

  1. A parent, spouse, child, and anyone acting for the deceased

  2. Any person who gains from a life insurance policy on the deceased

  3. Any insurer having issued such a policy

  4. Anyone whose actions the coroner believes may have contributed to the death

  5. The chief officer of the police force

  6. Any person appointed by a government department to attend the inquest

  7. Any other person the coroner determines to have a "proper interest"

Can a funeral be held before the completion of an inquest?

Under normal circumstances, it is possible to hold a funeral, with either a burial or a cremation, before the formal completion of the inquest. The coroner will issue the relevant documentation permitting the funeral director to undertake proper disposal of the body.

However, there may be some delays and restrictions in certain types of cases, particularly those relating to cases of unlawful killing, homicide, road traffic accidents etc. A coroner's officer and your funeral director will be able to advise you on the individual circumstances of your particular case.

Greater Manchester Coroners

Her Majesty's Coroner City of Manchester

Her Majesty's Coroner for The City of Manchester

HM Coroner Mr N S Meadows

HM Coroner's Office
Manchester City Area
Manchester Town Hall
Albert Square
M2 5BR

Telephone: 0161 830 4222

Her Majesty's Coroner Greater Manchester West

Her Majesty's Coroner for Greater Manchester West

The City of Salford - Metropolitan Borough of Bolton - Metropolitan Borough of Wigan

HM Coroner Mrs J Leeming

Ground Floor
Paderborn House
Howell Croft North

Telephone: 01204 338799

Her Majesty's Coroner Greater Manchester North

Her Majesty's Coroner for Greater Manchester North

Metropolitan Borough of Bury - Metropolitan Borough of Oldham - Metropolitan Borough of Rochdale

HM Coroner Mr S R Nelson

Coroner's Service
Phoenix Centre,
Church Street,
OL10 1LR

Telephone: 01706 924815

Her Majesty's Coroner Greater Manchester South

Her Majesty's Coroner for Greater Manchester South

Metropolitan Borough of Stockport - Metropolitan Borough of Tameside - Metropolitan Borough of Trafford

HM Coroner Mr J S Pollard

The Coroners' Court
Mount Tabor

Telephone: 0161 474 3993

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