The coroner

A coroner is an independent judicial officer who has been appointed to investigate a death.  They usually have a legal background and are also familiar with medical terminology. 

What a coroner does 

Coroners investigate all deaths where the cause is unknown, is not thought to be due to natural circumstances or needs an inquiry for another reason. 

The coroner may conduct a simple investigation by interviewing the medical staff who treated the person who has died, to determine the cause of death. Sometimes this will require a post-mortem to take place.  If the death is found to be from natural causes there will not be an inquest and the coroner will send a certificate to the registrar stating the cause of death.  You can then make an appointment for the death to be registered with the registrar.

Inquest

Where a death has not been as a result of natural causes, for example in the case of a road traffic accident, the coroner will need to hold a full inquest into the death.  This is a public court hearing held by the coroner to establish who has died, when and how the death occurred.  The inquest will be held as soon as possible after the death. 

The coroner will tell you if an inquest is going to be held into the death of a family member if you are their next of kin. They’ll also provide you with the name of a family liaison officer from either the police or Coroner’s Office who’ll be your point of contact for information. 

Coroners have powers to move a body into a public mortuary whilst a death is being investigated.  A post-mortem will usually be carried out if there is an inquest into a death. 

If an inquest has to be adjourned because further information is required, the coroner can issue a certificate for a funeral to take place, before the inquest is reopened. 

Following the inquest 

The coroner, or jury where there is one present, will come to a conclusion at the end of the inquest.  These findings will allow the cause of death to be registered.     

Challenging a decision 

You can challenge a coroner’s or an inquest decision within three months of it being made.  You should seek legal advice if you are planning to do this.  

Contact the coroner 

You can request copies of reports of any documents relevant to a coroner’s investigation into a death.  Barnsley Coroner’s Office is at the police station on Churchfields in Barnsley town centre.  You can contact them by: 

Calling: 01226 736031 between 8:30am and 5pm Monday to Thursday and 8:30am to 4:30pm Fridays.