The basic purpose of an inquest in a police enquiry…

The basic purpose of an inquest in a police enquiry…
An inquest is held in a Coroners Court, the chair being the Coroner.
Coroner’s usually are Lawyers or Doctors with more than five years experience.
Liaison between the Coroner and the Police is usually via an appointed Coroners Officer  more often than not this is an ex or retired police officer.
An inquest is carried by a Coroner if the cause of death is:-
  • Violent
  • Unknown
  • Unnatural
  • In Police Custody
It is the Coroners duty to establish who the deceased was and how, when and where they died.
During murder investigations an inquest is very often opened and immediately closed until the outcome of a trial.
At the Court I (as the senior investigative officer SIO), would inform the Coroner verbally by taking the stand and informing him/her how, when and where the body(s) were discovered. That a post-mortem had been carried out and a cause of death established. I would also inform the Court whether or not someone was in custody or being sought in connection with the incident, or simply that a major investigation was underway under my direction.
When investigating suspicious deaths, which are subsequently solved due to the findings,  a post-mortem or subsequent toxicology report, the family of the bereaved need to be informed of all aspects. As a senior investigating officer I would sit with them and inform them of what had taken place to the best of my knowledge and and if no longer suspicious the Coroners Officer would take over.
At an inquest journalist have the right to attend along with members of the public. Journalist usually cover these with a brief report.
During an inquest, witnesses are chosen by the Coroner to give evidence – hence my involvement as the SIO in the case.
I would be called to the Court to give evidence and answer questions to clarify any issues raised, as would other witnesses.
What I became quickly aware of, that I did not know before, was that anyone having a ‘proper interest’ can also ask questions of the witnesses. i.e. A Parent, Child, Spouse, Partner or personal representatives of the deceased, which includes Solicitors.
The latter being particularly important where a compensation claim maybe apparent, such as in a case of a road traffic accident or injuries sustained at work.
It should be noted that they are restricted to questions only about the medical cause and the circumstances of the death.
Formal registration of  a death must be postponed if a Coroner has decided to investigate this may of course be a considerable time, as in the case of murder.
On conclusion of the Inquest the Coroner will send all relevant details to the ‘Registrar of Births and Deaths’, for the death to be registered.
An interim certificate of the death can be issued by the Coroner until such time as the Inquest has been concluded.
The certificate is acceptable in most cases for Banks and other Financial Institutions unless it is important for them to know the outcome of the Inquest, such as in cases of insurance settlement.
This certificate can also be used for benefit claims and National Insurance purposes.
Our fictional DI Dylan novels are written with the experience of a total of forty-seven years
in West Yorkshire Police Force. Our thoughts, feelings and sights are those of DI Dylan and Jen. To read more about us and our work please visit www.rcbridgestock.com

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