Coroner's inquest diary:
St Pancras Coroner’s Court (PDF)
Poplar Coroner’s Court (PDF)
What is an inquest?
An inquest is a fact finding inquiry into the circumstances of a death. It is held in public, sometimes with a jury. It is up to the coroner to decide how to organise the inquiry.
The coroner will hold an inquest if:
- the cause of death is apparently unknown; or
- the cause of death is apparently unnatural; or
- death occurs in state custody (police, prison or mental health detention)
Coroners hold inquests in these circumstances even if the person died outside England and Wales if the body is returned here. If an inquest is to be held, the coroner will inform the nearest relative of the deceased (whose contact details have been passed to the coroner by the police or hospital).
Inquests are held in public, so anyone can attend, and interested persons (which includes close family members) may ask questions. Some families seek legal representation, but others do not and the coroner helps them to put their questions. It is not a trial, so there is no prosecution or defence.
The gold standard for length of time to inquest is within 6 months of the death, but it may take much longer, and is generally at least double that time if the coroner is going to sit with a jury (almost always needed for deaths in state custody).
However, all Inner North London jury inquests have been adjourned, because St Pancras and Poplar Coroner’s Courts have insufficient space to allow safe social distancing for jury members. Camden Council is attempting to locate and prepare a COVID safe venue. Unfortunately, the number of jury inquests waiting to be heard is growing, and so many jury inquests will be delayed by years rather than months.
In the meantime, the coroner can provide interim certificates of the fact of death. You can use these for benefits and national insurance purposes. Financial institutions usually accept such a certificate as evidence of the death.
Interested persons seeking a recording of their inquest should contact the relevant coroner’s officer.