Role of the Coroner

A coroner is an independent judicial office holder acting on behalf of the Crown to investigate the cause and circumstances of violent or unnatural deaths, or sudden deaths of unknown cause.

Coroners are appointed by and paid via the local authority for their area (in this instance Birmingham and Solihull), but they are not local authority employees and are independent of both local and central government.

A coroner has a duty to investigate a death if:

  1. The coroner is made aware that the body is within the coroner’s area, and
  2. The coroner has reason to suspect that:
    1. The deceased has died a violent or unnatural death,
    2. The cause of the death is unknown, or
    3. The deceased died whilst in custody or state detention.

An unnatural death is met if:

  1. The death was at least contributed to by neglect or
  2. An unexpected death from natural causes, results from culpable human failure.

Preliminary Inquiries

The coroner is permitted to make preliminary inquiries to see whether the duty to investigate is engaged and may make whatever inquiries seem necessary. If it is felt necessary after conducting preliminary investigations, the coroner will hold an inquest.

Purpose of the Inquest

The matters to be ascertained at an inquest are:

  1. Who the deceased was;
  2. The place of his or her death;
  3. The date and time of the death; and
  4. How he or she came by their death.

An inquest is a fact finding inquiry conducted by a coroner. It is not permitted to reach any conclusion that appears to determine civil or criminal liability however it can record factual failures that are found on the evidence to have caused or contributed to the death.

Once a coroner is satisfied of the necessary facts, they will reach a conclusion based on a balance of probabilities basis.

For further information on Birmingham and Solihull Coroner Service please click here