Her Majesty's Coroner for the County of Devon
Plymouth and South West District
Plymouth City Council
Plymouth PL1 2AA
- 1 Derriford Park
Derriford Business Park
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An inquest is an inquiry to work out who the deceased was, the medical cause and when and where they died. It is held in public, sometimes with a jury. It is up to the coroner how to organise the enquiry in a way to best serve the public interest and the interests of the relatives.
The coroner will hold an inquest if the death was:
- Violent or unnatural
- Caused by a reportable industrial disease or is reportable to a government department
- The death occurred in prison or in police custody or as a result of any conduct by a police officer
- The cause of death remains uncertain after post-mortem examination
If a body is lost (usually at sea) a coroner can hold an inquest by order of the Secretary of State if death is likely to have occurred in or near a coroner’s jurisdiction.
If an inquest is held, the coroner must inform:
- The married partner of the deceased
- The nearest relative (if different)
- The personal representative (if different from above)
Relatives can attend an inquest and can ask relevant questions of witnesses but usually they may only ask questions about the medical cause and circumstances of the death. It may be important to have a lawyer to represent you if the death was caused by a road accident, or an accident at work, or other circumstances which could lead to a claim for compensation. You cannot get legal aid for this.
If the enquiries take some time, ask the coroner to give you a letter confirming the death. You can use this letter for social security and National Insurance (NI) purposes.
The coroner may give you an Order for Burial or a Certificate for Cremation so that the funeral can take place. This may be done before the inquest is completed, provided the body is not required for further examination.
The coroner will also send a Certificate After Inquest, stating the cause of death, to the registrar. This allows the death to be registered.