Inquest Law

Inquest Representation ServiceInquest Law (also known as Coronial Law) is governed by domestic law, EU law, and case law. The inquest process is presided over by a coroner. An inquest has to take place where the death may in part be attributable to an unnatural cause. For those who become involved in the inquest process gaining an understanding of the function and scope of an inquest and the coroner’s powers can be daunting. Unlike many other areas of law in England and Wales inquest law is different in that it is an inquisitorial (fact finding) process led by the coroner rather than the more traditional adversarial process where there are distinct sides.

At every inquest the coroner is seeking to establish the answer to 4 key questions: who the deceased was, and when, where and how he came by his death. There are 2 types of inquest, a standard (“Jamieson”) style inquest, and an enhanced (“Middleton”) style inquest [the names come from reported cases.] The coroner should hold an enhanced inquest if a proactive investigation is required to determine whether an agent of the state unlawfully took life and /or whether state agents failed to take adequate steps to protect life when under a duty to do so under Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (“everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law.”). Certain types of death such as prison suicides, or, as a result of a police shooting automatically result in an enhanced inquest. Sometimes a hospital death will require an enhanced inquest but not always. Generally for an enhanced inquest the coroner will empanel a jury. He can also use a jury in other cases at his discretion. {Cases Cited: Middleton (2004) 2 AC}

For the family of the deceased who have lost their loved one in circumstances that have led to the coroner calling an inquest the process can be particularly bewildering and stressful at a time when they are grieving. Many families just want to get a clear understanding of how the death happened, others feel strongly that there were some external contributing factors and may want to identify system shortfalls or try to attribute blame. However, there are limitations on the coroner’s powers. Our lawyers are experienced in advising and representing families so that they gain the best possible outcome at the inquest within the constraints the law imposes.

Apart from the family of the deceased all sorts of people find they are drawn into the inquest process. They may be asked to write a statement or provide information to the coroner, and may be requested or formally witness summonsed to attend the inquest to give evidence. For example, someone involved in a fatal road traffic accident, doctors and health care professionals, the last few people to see the deceased before he took his own life. Understandably many people who find themselves in this position are anxious about what they have to do, what to expect and whether there could any adverse repercussion for them. The lawyers at Inquest Representation Service frequently give legal advice on these issues including whether an individual would be classed as an “interested person”, (a) so that they can ask questions; (b) take a more proactive role at the inquest; and (c) can be legally represented at the inquest hearing. It is advisable that anyone who would be classed as an interested person  seeks legal advice about whether they should be represented. Doctors or other health care professionals where the care and treatment they provided to the deceased is likely to be subject to scrutiny should give serious consideration to being legally represented.

Our lawyers provide inquest law legal advice and representation in relation to inquests all over England and Wales. Please call 033 00 77 00 97 to enquire how the Inquest Representation Service might be able to assist you. The lawyers at the Inquest Representation Service are regulated by the legal regulator the Bar Standards Board. All calls are treated in strictest confidence and are without obligation.