The coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating deaths. The Ministry of Justice and London boroughs are responsible for the Coroner's Service.
Inner South London Coroner's Service
London is divided into eight coroners districts and the Inner South London Coroner's Service is operated as a consortium of four boroughs: Lambeth, Lewisham, Greenwich and Southwark.
The coroner's primary responsibilities are to:
- investigate the circumstances of the deaths of persons where it appears that the death was violent, unnatural or of an unknown cause;
- decide whether a post-mortem examination is necessary;
- hold an inquest and notify the Registrar of Deaths of the findings; and
- manage the Coroner's Court and offices.
Southwark provides administrative support and accommodation for the service.
Costs are met by the boroughs in proportion to population. Lambeth has the greatest population and pays 28% of the cost.
London Inner South Coroner's Court
Telephone: 020 7525 4200
Fax: 020 7525 6356
Opening Hours Monday - Friday
Mortuary facilities for the Inner South London Coroner's Service are provided by London Borough of Greenwich and London Borough of Lewisham.
What is a coroners inquest?
An inquest is an inquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of the death.
It is held in public, sometimes with a jury.
It is up to the coroner to organise this in a way that will best serve the public interest or that of the family relatives.
An inquest will be held if:
- the death was violent or unnatural;
- the death was caused by an Industrial Disease;
- the death occurred in prison or police custody; or
- the cause of death remains uncertain after a post mortem examination.
An inquest may still be held even in circumstances where the death occurred abroad (and the body is returned to Britain).
If the body has been destroyed or is unrecoverable, a coroner can hold an inquest by order of the Secretary of State if the death is likely to have occurred in or near a coroners area of jurisdiction.
When an inquest is held, the coroner must inform the following people:
- the married partner of the deceased;
- the nearest relative (if different); or
- the personal representative (if different from the above).
Relatives are permitted to attend an inquest and ask questions about the medical cause and the circumstances of the death.
It may be advisable 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 any claim for compensation.
Legal aid for such representation is only available in exceptional circumstances.
Should the coroners enquiries or inquest take a long time, then you may request the coroner to give you a letter confirming the death. This can then be used for Social Security and National Insurance purposes.
The coroner may also give you an order for burial (form 101) or certificate for cremation (form E) so that the funeral can take place before the inquest is completed providing the body is not required for further examination.
Additionally the coroner will also send a certificate after inquest (form 99(rev)), stating the cause of death to the Registrar of Births Deaths & Marriages. This enables the death to be registered.
Why is there going to be a coroners inquest?
A doctor will normally report a death to the coroner if it resulted from or occurred in any of the following circumstances.
- The deceased person was not attended during the last illness or the doctor treating the deceased had not seen him or her either after death or in the 14 days before the death.
- The death was violent or unnatural, or occurred in suspicious circumstances.
- The cause of death is not known or is not certain.
- The death occurred while the deceased was a patient undergoing an operation or did not recover from the anaesthetic.
- The death was caused by an Industrial Disease.
- The death occurred in prison or police custody.
- The coroner may be the only person able to certify the cause of death. The doctor will write on the formal notice that the death has been referred to the coroner.
What is a post mortem (autopsy)?
The coroner may arrange for a post mortem examination of the body.
The consent of the relatives is not required, however they are entitled to be represented at the examination by a doctor.
If the post mortem shows that the death was due to natural causes, the coroner will issue a notification by the coroner (the pink form 100), which gives the cause of death so that the death can be registered.
The coroner usually sends the form direct to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages.
When the body is to be cremated the coroner will give you the certificate for cremation (form E) which allows cremation to take place.
If the death was known to be caused by a natural illness but the doctors or surgeons wish to know more about the cause of death, they may ask the relatives for permission to carry out a post mortem examination.
This is a medical examination of the body which can find out more about the cause of death, and should not delay the funeral.
If you want advice or information about a death that has been referred to a Coroner, contact the coroners officer. You can get the address from the Police Station, or if death was in hospital, the hospital official dealing with deaths.
For additional information concerning the inquest system, and the responsibilities of the coroner visit the Ministry of Justice website.