Coroner Investigations - Inquests
Why will an inquest be needed?
Coroners will investigate a death that has been reported to them if they believe that:
the death was violent or unnatural
the cause of death is unknown, or
the person died in prison, police custody or another type of state detention
A post-mortem investigation will normally be carried to establish the cause of death. If the cause of death could not be found out or the death deemed to be unnatural then the Coroner must hold an inquest.
The Ministry of Justice has produced a brief guide that outlines the inquest process which you can download by clicking here.
What is the purpose of an inquest?
The purpose of the inquest is to establish who, when, where and how a person died. It does not establish blame or award compensation.
Will I need legal representation?
In some cases, families choose not to have legal representation as there may not be any controversial circumstances surrounding the death of their loved one. However, should you have any concerns at all then it may be best to talk to a specialist solicitor with experience in dealing with inquests as not all two cases are the same. If you would like help in contacting a solicitor in your area, please contact us on 0151 252 3145 or and we will help you find the right help.
Is there funding available to help with legal costs?
At present, funding is only available to bereaved families where there may be involvement of the State (government agencies), such as a death in police custody or violent deaths and suicide of persons detained in prison. Funding may also be available if it is felt that there is a wider public interest in the findings of the interest and that of the family being represented. To get a better understanding of whether or not you may be eligible for funding, you will need to seek expert legal advice.
Is there other help available?
The Coroners Court Support Service provides emotional and practical support to bereaved families who are dealing with the inquest process following the death of a loved one. They can be contacted via their helpline which is 0300 111 2141.
The charity INQUEST specialise in providing help to bereaved families whose loved one died in prison, police custody, immigration detention, mental health settings, deaths involving multi agency failings or where issues of state or corporate accountability are in question. You can download more information about the work of INQUEST here. You can also contact them directly on 0207 263 1111.
INQUEST have produced 'The Inquest Handbook' which is a guide for bereaved families, friends and advisors. A copy of this handbook can be downloaded here.
INQUEST have launched a campaign to help families obtain automatic funding for legal representation at inquests, where there is state involvement, to end the unjust imbalance for funding for the inquest process. Currently State bodies and their representatives automatically receive tax payers money whilst bereaved families sometimes have to fund the Inquest process themselves.
INQUEST call on the government to address this injustice and introduce:
1. Automatic non-means tested legal aid funding to families for specialist legal representation immediately following a state-related death.
2. Funding equivalent to that enjoyed by state bodies/public authorities and corporate bodies represented.
You can read the briefing notes here.
Please sign the petition.