The Coroner – Jurisdiction and Role

The Coroner has a duty to investigate a death in the following instances;

  • The Coroner is made aware that the body is within that Coroner’s area
  • The Coroner has reason to suspect that
    • The deceased died a violent or unnatural death
    • The cause of the death is unknown
  • The deceased died while in custody or state detention.

In order to assist in the investigation of a death the Coroner may order that a postmortem examination of the body take place to fully ascertain the cause of death. He or she may also request statements from any witnesses or clinicians who attended to the deceased.

On the basis of the investigation the Coroner will decide whether an Inquest is necessary, or whether an investigation can be discontinued.

The purpose of an Inquest is to ascertain;

  • Who the deceased person was, and
  • How, when and where the deceased came by his or her death , and
  • The particulars required to be registered in relation to the death.

Inquest hearings are heard in the Coroner’s Court , and this is a court of law. The Coroner can summon witnesses to attend, and people found lying in a Coroner’s Court are committing perjury.

In some Inquests the Coroner will also summon a jury.

Coroner’s also hold Inquests in to Treasure finds. Please go to the Treasure page for more information.