- See Procurator Fiscal in Scotland
Their role is to investigate certain types of death.
- Violent or unnatural (violence is usually unnatural)
- Sudden or of unknown cause
- Death in prison or in custody, which includes deaths in secure psychiatric units
- Industrial-related deaths
Approximately 40-50% of deaths are referred to the Coroner and, of that, 40-50% undergo an autopsy.
The Coroner holds an ancient judicial office. The coroner was originally charged with upholding appropriate legal procedure in a number of areas of life. Where the complex legal procedure was not followed, punitive fines could be imposed to raise money for the King's coffers. One area of responsibility was the investigation of sudden deaths, with represented a further opportunity for raising revenue.
In modern times, the coroner will hold a legal qualification, a medical qualification, or both. His main role is to determine, in the case of deaths, who died, when, where and of what..
Usually a retired or sometimes, and out-of-hours, a serving Police officer. They possess common sense, knowledge of procedure, no special medical knowledge to rely upon, and sometimes a desire for peace and tranquility. They are very useful, and quite powerful, as the Coroner's proxy.
Usually take messages but can be very useful. The Coroner may use such offices to ensure discussion takes place at third party distance so do not expect to report a death where your own actions could be examined by other parties directly to the coroner themselves.
Coroners' Rules 1984
Govern the investigations by Coroners (rules reproduced here).
Coroner's Act 1988
Coroners and Justice Act 2009
Reform of the Coroner in England and Wales
Following Shipman the coronial system is being "modernised" by the Department of Constitutional affairs (DCA). A draft Coroners Bill has been published with first reading 15 Jan 2009, and is available at the DCA and Ministry of Justice websites. The bill has been amended following consultation.
Several of the changes contained in the legislation have not yet been implemented and may not happen due to budget restrictions.
- Coroners and Justice Act 2009
- DCA website on coroner reform
- BMA website on coroner reform
- Draft guidance on the operation of the coroner system in the event of pandemic influenza - for consultation