The role of the coroner
The coroner is appointed by the Local Authority, but is not under their control. If the coroner is involved in a death, the deceased person is completely in the coroner’s control until they issue an order for burial or cremation.
What the coroner does
- Investigates sudden, violent or unnatural deaths
- Authorises the person who has died in England or Wales to be moved out of the country
- Approves the documents that go with the body of a person who has died abroad and is brought back to England or Wales
- Has the power to prevent cremation, and to order or allow the body of someone who has died to be exhumed (that is, for the grave to be opened and the body taken from the grave)
When is a death reported to the coroner?
If the person who has died was not seen by a doctor during their last illness.
- If the Registrar has not been able to get a filled-in medical certificate of the cause of death
- If the person who has died was not seen by the doctor who certified their death within 14 days before they died.
- If the cause of death appears to be unknown
- If the death was unnatural, was directly or indirectly caused by an accident, by violence, or by neglect, or happened in suspicious circumstances.
- If the person who has died fractured a major bone within one year before they died
- If the person who died had an operation which was needed due to injury.
- If the person died during an operation or before they recovered from the anaesthetic.
- If the death was due to having an abortion, an industrial disease or poisoning (including food poisoning or alcoholism)
- If military service may have directly or indirectly caused death
- If the death occurred in a prison.
- If the death occurred in a psychiatric hospital, or in temporary care.
If the death is reported to the coroner, there is usually a delay before the death can be registered. The registration must take place before a funeral can be arranged. The coroner will also decide if a post-mortem should take place, or if there should be an inquest. An inquest is a formal inquiry into an unexplained, sudden or violent death.