An inquest is an inquiry into who has died and how, when and where the death occurred. An inquest is not a trial; the coroner must not blame anyone for the death.
The release of the body and the funeral arrangements will be delayed if there is an inquest, in which case the coroner normally issues a burial order or cremation certificate after the post mortem is completed.
An inquest is usually opened primarily to record that a death has occurred and to identify the dead person. It will then be adjourned until any police enquiries and the coroner’s investigations are completed.
A date for the resumed inquest is set when all investigations are complete. Everyone entitled to be notified is informed. Inquests are open to the public and journalists are usually present.
Coroners decide who should give evidence as a witness during an inquest. Anyone can offer to give evidence by informing the coroner. Anyone who believes a particular witness should be called, should inform the coroner. Witnesses can be compelled to attend.
If the death occurs in prison, in custody, at work or if further deaths may occur in similar circumstances, the inquest will be held with a jury. In these cases, the coroner decides matters of law and the jury decides the verdict. Possible verdicts include: natural causes, accident, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing, industrial disease, and open verdicts (where there is insufficient evidence for any other verdict).
The coroner may also report the death to any appropriate person or authority, if action is needed to prevent more deaths in similar circumstances.
When the inquest is completed, the coroner notifies the registrar, who can then issue the death certificate.