HM Coroner's Inquest
The Scope and Purpose of an Inquest.
The purpose of the inquest is to answer four questions:
· Identity of the deceased;
· Place of death;
· Time of death; and
· How the deceased came by his death.
Evidence: must be solely for the purpose of answering these questions and no other evidence is admitted. It is not for the inquest to ascertain "how the deceased died" or "in what broad circumstances.” Moreover, it is not the purpose of the inquest to determine, or appear to determine, criminal or civil liability, to apportion guilt or attribute blame.
Inquests are governed by the Coroners Rules. The coroner gives notice to near relatives, those entitled to examine witnesses and those whose conduct is likely to be scrutinised. Inquests are held in public except where there are real issues of national security.
Individuals with an interest in the proceedings, such as relatives of the deceased, individuals appearing as witnesses, and organisations or individuals who may face some responsibility in the death of the individual, may be represented by lawyers at the discretion of the coroner. Witnesses may be compelled to testify subject to the privilege against self-incrimination.
Verdicts: The following verdicts are not mandatory but are strongly recommended:
· Industrial diseases
· Dependency on drugs or non-dependent abuse of drugs;
· Want of attention at birth;
· Lack of care or self-neglect;
· Attempted or self-induced abortion;
· Accident or misadventure;
· Lawful killing (formerly "justifiable homicide");
· Open verdict (cause of death unknown or unstated);
Category 3 - Unlawful killing
· Still birth.
If an open verdict is returned, the inquest can be reopened if new evidence is found and presented to the coroner.