What is an inquest?
An inquest is a formal investigation into the circumstances of a death where it is suspected that the death was caused by something other than natural causes.
What is an Article 2 inquest?
An Article 2 inquest is an enhanced inquest that takes place when the deceased was in the State's care at the time of their death, for example, in a police station, prison or immigration detention centre. Sometimes it may take place even when the deceased was in the community dies if [the state authorities] may be responsible.
How soon after a death will an inquest take place?
If a post mortem is being carried out, an inquest cannot take place until the outcome is known. Whilst waiting for the results of a post mortem, the inquest will be opened and adjourned and listed for mention approximately three months later.
“Listed for mention” means that the Coroner will carry out an informal consideration of the papers without any witnesses being present. This procedure will determine how the inquest is to proceed and who should attend. The Coroner will also identify a date for the inquest which will usually be approximately three months later.
Should the coroner send a copy of the post-mortem report the family?
Yes, if they ask for it, unless there are criminal proceedings (or comtemplated criminal proceedings) or the coroner thinks the post-mortem report is irrelevant. The coroner should also send the family other reports provided to the coroner and any other documents the coroner thinks are relevant. Coroners can refuse providing documents if they think the request is unreasonable.
How long will an inquest take?
This will depend on the circumstances of each case. It can take a few hours, several days or even weeks. Article 2 inquests take longer than “traditional” inquests.
Where will the inquest take place?
An inquest will take place in a Court, but the hearing is very different from a Court hearing as it seeks to establish different conclusions. An inquest will usually be open to the public unless the interests of justice or national security require it, or parts of it, to be held in private. Reporting restrictions can be imposed if necessary, preventing, for example, the names of any children involved from being published.
What is a pre-inquest review hearing?
In some cases, a pre-inquest review will be held before the inquest takes place. This can determine whether a jury is needed and identify the witnesses who need to attend.
Will an inquest stop me from getting a death certificate?
An interim death certificate can be issued before an inquest takes place, confirming the name of the deceased and the date of death only. The cause of death will not be known until the inquest has taken place. If a post mortem takes place and there is an inquest, the death cannot be registered until after the inquest has concluded. Once an inquest has taken place, Court staff will register the death on your behalf. This can take up to 10 days.
Will I have to attend the inquest?
Only people identified as interested persons can attend an inquest. Someone will automatically be an interested person if they are a member of the deceased's family. Other persons can only attend if the Coroner requests or summonses them to the inquest. It is usual, particularly in an Article 2 inquest, for the family to play a more pivotal role, in which case one family member will be identified as the representative.
If I attend an inquest, will I have to question the witnesses?
An interested person can question witnesses, but as this is a specialist area, it is advisable to instruct a specialist inquest lawyer to do that for you. An inquest aims to establish facts rather than blame, and this is done by asking questions put to witnesses in a specific way.
Before an Article 2 inquest takes place, a family should be given the opportunity to send submissions to the Coroner setting out the concerns of the family and any questions the family would like the Coroner to ask a witness. If you have a lawyer representing you, they will help you with this and discuss and identify which questions should be asked.
There is going to be a trial in Court: will this delay the inquest?
If there are criminal proceedings relating to the death of the deceased, the inquest will not take place until those proceedings have concluded.
What conclusions can an inquest make?
In an Article 2 inquest, there is more emphasis on establishing how someone met their death and the circumstances of that death. Conclusions, which used to be known as verdicts, are issued at the end of the inquest. In Article 2 inquests, these are usually longer and more detailed. Conclusions that can be reached include misadventure, lawful or unlawful killing, accident or suicide. An inquest can conclude that certain people or organisations cause or contributed to the person’s death.
Contact our Inquest Lawyers, London
Our specialist inquest lawyers can help you throughout the whole process. We understand how difficult this situation is for a family and will do all we can to ensure that the inquest gives you the answers that you need. Please get in touch via our online contact form or call us on 020 3972 9011 to see how we can help you.