This Charter tells you what standards of performance are to be expected in the coroner service, and what to do if something goes wrong.
2. The Coroner Service operates within a legal framework. It is the duty of the coroners to investigate deaths which are reported to them and which appear to be due to violence or are unnatural, or are sudden and of unknown cause, or which occur in legal custody, and to carry out certain related responsibilities
3. The Coroner and his staff will treat the bereaved and other members of the public courteously and sympathetically at all times, and will have regard, within the constraints of the statutory duties, to the deceased's religious faith and cultural traditions.
4. Duties will be discharged impartially, with a view to ascertaining the facts surrounding a death for the purposes of the coroner's statutory responsibilities
5. Confidentially will be preserved as far as possible within a system based on public court hearings. Explanations for the procedures adopted in particular cases will be given, on request, where the coroner is satisfied that the person has a proper interest.
6. Written enquiries to the coroner will normally receive a reply within 10 working days of receipt. If the matter cannot be resolved within that time, an acknowledgement will be issued within 5 working days with an estimate of when a substantive reply will be sent.
Inquiries not requiring an inquest
7. If a death is reported which does not need to be the subject of an inquest a certificate giving the cause of death will be sent to the registrar of deaths within 5 working days of the completion of the coroner's enquiries
Before the Inquest
8. If the coroner or his officer or staff need to interview someone about a death, the aim will be to do so no more than once, at at time and place convenient to the person concerned. If the person wishes, they may be accompanied during the interview by a relative, friend or other person. Every effort will be made to avoid causing any additional distress to close friends or relatives of the deceased. A copy of any statement to be used at the inquest will be provided to the person who made it, on request at least 5 working days in advance of the hearing (unless the coroner has good reason not to release it).
When the coroner decides that a post mortem is necessary, wherever possible, the immediate next od kin whose details are known, will be given:
- If requested, an explantion why a post mortem is necessary and what is involved;
- Advance notice of the arrangements so that they may be represented (by a doctor) if they wish (but post mortem examinations must normally be undertaken as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours of the discovery of the death). Notice may not always be practical;
- If requested, a copy of the post mortem report
9. The coroner will notify those asked to attend an inquest:
- The date and time if each hearing (if more than one) at least 8 working days in advance (but notw that the formal opening of the inquest - for taking evidence of identity and the medical cause of death - will generally take place within 2 days of the report of the death, at which point the body will normally be released);
- details of the location of the court where the inquest will be held;
- details of the telephone number for enquiries; and will:
- provide a leaflet explaining the purpose and procedures of inquests;
- advise those who express a wish to do so that they may attend an inquest as an observer beforehand;
- explain to those called as witness or juror how to claim for travel and subsistence expenses and for financial loss allowances;
- ascertain any preference for swearing evidence (e.g. in accordance with specified religious beliefs, or on affirmation)
10. The coroner will endeavour to hold any neccessary inquest at the earliest possible date. Most inquests take place within 6 months of the death. However, there may be factors outside the coroner's control which can cause delay. Where the inquest is likely to be delayed, the coroner will notify interested persons of the position, including the reasons for any continuing delay, on a regular basis unless the inquest had been formally adjourned to a specific date.
Release of the body
11. The coroner will release the body of the deceased for the funeral at the earliest opportunity, normally within 3 days. Where there are uncertainties as to the cause of death, or where the death is suspicious, it may be necessary to retain the body longer for further investigation. The coroner will ensure that relatives are advised of potential delays and the reasons for them.
Disclosure of information
12. The coroner will, on request and at his discretion, provide to interested persons not less than 8 working days in advance of the request, copies of the post mortem report for which payment may be required
13. For jurors, the coroners will:
- send a leaflet explaining the duties of a juror at an inquest, and providing other relevant information, 10 days beforehand;
- provide an indication in advance of how long the jury service will last
After the inquest
14. On the conclusion of the inquest, the next of kin will be provided with a written explanation about how, where and when a copy of the death certificate may be obtained.
15. If, in the interests of preventing further fatalities, the coroner decides to report the matter to a relevant person or authority, he will do so within 15 working days of the inquest outcome. He will also send copies of his letter to all the interested persons. A copy of any subsequent reply will be sent with 5 days of its receipt.
16. The coroner will supply an interested person, on application, a copy of the inquest verdict (although this is reproduced on the death certificate), or any of the documents produced in evidence, within 10 working days of receipt of the prescribed fee (which will vary according to the number and size of the documents to be copied). An estimate of the fee will be provided in advance if requested.
17. The coroner will also supply for the prescribed fee, a copy of his notes of evidence, but this may take up to 8 weeks to provide. In all cases, an estimate of the fee will be given on application
18. The coroner/local authority will pay witness and juror expenses claims promptly and within 15 working days of receipt of properly completed applications
Applications for permission to remove a body abroad
19. The coroner will make every effort to complete his enquiries and decide such applications within 5 days of receipt of notice
20. Coroners have responsibility for enquiries into treasure finds. Information leaflets about treasure are available from the coroner's office.
Feedback and complaints
21. Coroners will not normally enter into correspondence about the cases they have completed, but comments and suggestions on improving the coroner service are always welcome. Please contact the coroner's office at the address given above. The aim of the coroner service is to provide a service of excellence so that you should have no cause for complaint, but if you do, the complaint will be dealt with speedily and courteously.
- Complaints about a coroner's decision or the outcome of an inquest can only be dealt with through the high court. The coroner's office will be able to explain the procedure on request, but cannot give legal advice.
- All complaints about the administration of the coroner service, or the conduct of individual coroners or their staff, should be raised in the first instance with the coroner by writing to him or telephoning him at the contact point given in paragraph 7 The coroner will reply to such complaints in accordance with the timescales set out above.
- If the coroner fails to deal with the complaint satisfactorily, the complainant may refer it to the Home Office (Coroners Section), Room 972, 50 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AT. Tel: 02072732888/3574. The Home Office has no disciplinary powers or power to award compensation but may, in appropriate cases, refer the complaint to the Lord Chancellor who is responsible for the discipline of coroners.
22. The coroner's and Council's performance will be monitored regularly against the standards detailed in this document
23. Further copies of this charter may be obtained from the coroner's office. General information is contained in the Home Office leaflet 'The Work of the Coroner' also available from the coroner's office
24. Copies of this charter in Welsh are available from the coroner's office
25. This charter was first issued on 01-08-02 and will be reviewed annually