The coroner has a duty to investigate the circumstances of sudden, unnatural or uncertified deaths that are reported. They have to find out the medical cause of the death if it is not known.

Deaths will normally be reported to the coroner by the police, a doctor or a registrar of births and deaths, for example, when no doctor has treated the deceased during his or her last illness or when the death was sudden, unexpected or unnatural.

Even where a death has been reported, the coroner may decide after preliminary questioning that death was quite natural and the investigation should go no further. In addition, the coroner is responsible for determining issues of treasure trove.

What happens when a death is reported

Where a death has been reported to the coroner, the deceased will be moved to the mortuary.

We are responsible for removing the deceased from the place of death to the mortuary. If you would like more information about these arrangements, please contact the Registration and Coroners Manager on 01202 454910.

If the coroner decides that a medical examination of the deceased is required, a pathologist will carry out a post mortem. This will take place at Poole Hospital . If the post mortem shows the death was natural, there may be no need for an inquest. If the death is not due to a natural cause then the Coroner will hold an inquest.

Once at the mortuary, the deceased is under the coroner's jurisdiction and will remain so until the coroner releases the body for the funeral arrangements to be made.

The coroner must be notified of every case when a body is to be taken out of England and Wales, whether or not there has been an inquest. When a body has been brought into England and Wales from another country, the coroner may be able to give some help in finding the cause of death and may be required to hold an inquest.

What happens at an inquest

An Inquest is not a trial, it is a limited inquiry to find out who has died, how, when and where they died. It is not the job of the coroner to find someone responsible for the death, as a trial would do.

Most inquests are held without a jury. There are particular times when a jury will be called if the death occurred:

  • in prison
  • in police custody
  • as a result from an incident at work 

In every inquest held with a jury, it is the jury, and not the coroner, which makes the final decision. This is called returning the verdict. Jurors are paid expenses and some money towards loss of earnings.

Contact us

Tel: 01202 265235

Page last updated: 28 May 2019
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