Attending an inquest

An inquest is a public court hearing for the coroner, sometimes with a jury, to decide who died, how, when and where the death happened.

Not all deaths which are investigated by a coroner need to have an inquest. You will be told when an inquest is required.

During the inquest the coroner will hear from witnesses and consider other evidence such as post-mortem reports.

An inquest is different from other types of court hearing because there is no prosecution or defence and only the coroner can decide what evidence to hear. The purpose of the inquest is to discover the facts of the death. The coroner's court does not determine criminal liability by a named person or civil liability.

Must I attend?

If you are asked to give evidence at the hearing you will be expected to attend. If you think this will be too difficult you should discuss it with us.  

You do not need to attend an inquest if you are not giving evidence. This is entirely your decision.

Unless you are giving evidence at the time, you are usually free to leave and return to the hearing room at any point. 

The coroner's investigation officer dealing with your loved one's case will discuss the details with you, including the date the inquest is scheduled to take place.

Who else will be in court?

Members of the public may attend and the media are allowed to report on proceedings. There are some occasions which may affect public access, for example:

  • If the inquest might include evidence that impacts national security then this evidence may be heard by the coroner in private.
  • If the evidence involves a child, the coroner can prevent personal details from being released to the public.

Family members and friends are also welcome to attend court to hear evidence and ask questions if they are unsure about anything.

All people attending court are asked to arrive 15 minutes before the inquest starts to sign in at reception. We are very fortunate to have coroner's court support volunteers to provide support to family and friends, if needed. They will be there to greet you upon arrival and answer any questions you have about the inquest.

Accessibility

The Coroners Court aims to be as accessible as possible:

  • There are no stairs from the public car park to the entrance of the court and in the courtroom. Lift for access to the first floor.
  • Hearing loop service for those hard of hearing.
  • Adaptations of evidence and documentation for those with problems with their eyesight is available.