The role of the coroner

When your loved one dies, you will need to register their death. This will either be undertaken by their doctor or Her Majesty’s Coroner depending on the circumstances of their passing.

What are Coroners and what do they do?

For a doctor to legally certify a death they must have seen their patient alive within 14 days prior to their death; if this isn’t the case, the death must be reported to the Coroner– even if the death was natural and non-suspicious.

Coroners are responsible for investigating any deaths which occur suddenly, appear unnatural, are violent or cannot be explained or certified by a doctor.

When is a coroner appointed?

A Coroner will be appointed to investigate when a death has occurred:

  • After an injury or accident
  • During surgery or before recovery from anaesthetic
  • From an accident, drug or alcohol overdose or suicide
  • From an industrial disease
  • Very suddenly and unexplained e.g. cot death, stillbirth
  • In prison/custody
  • Or if a doctor did not consult with the deceased 14 days before they died

You don’t need to worry about reporting a death to a Coroner as in most cases this will be undertaken by a doctor or the police. However, if you are concerned about the cause of death you can inform the Coroner’s office.

What happens when a coroner is involved in a death?

Once the deceased is with the Coroner, they will remain with them until the cause of death has been found. They are, however, required to release them as soon as is possible.

Our Funeral Directors liaise directly with the Coroner’s Office and can advise of any likely delays to organising and conducting a funeral.

As part of their investigation, the Coroner will often request a Post Mortem examination, which is carried out by a pathologist, to determine the cause of death. If this is successful, the coroner will send a report to the Registrar allowing family members (or the executor) to make an appointment to officially register the death of their loved one.

When is a coroner’s inquest held?

If the cause of death cannot be determined by a Post Mortem examination or the death is found to be unnatural, the Coroner must conduct a public court hearing known as an inquest. This is held to establish more details of the death – who, what, when and where – and will only be closed when a verdict and cause of death has been reached.

In some circumstances an inquest will be opened and adjourned to allow for the funeral to happen and the Coroner can issue an interim certificate for the cause of death, if required. The inquest can then be re-opened later to reach a conclusion.

If the death occurred as a result of an accident at work or in prison/custody, there will usually be a jury at the inquest and therefore the process may take longer.

Do you have any further questions for us about the role of the coroner?

If your case goes to inquest, the Coroner will let you know what to expect and estimated timescales.

If you would like to discuss this further, please contact your local Co-op Funeral Director

We can help you with all your funeral planning arrangements