Frequently Asked Questions
Updated 8 March 2011
What is the purpose of an inquest?
Coroners are independent judicial officers who work within a legal
framework established by Act of Parliament. A Coroner's inquest is
a process for investigating the factual circumstances of a death.
It is a fact-finding inquiry to establish the answers to:
• Who the deceased was
• When and where the death occurred
• How the deceased came by his or her death
• Particulars required by the Registration Acts to be
registered concerning the death
The proceedings and evidence are aimed solely at ascertaining
the answers to these questions. Expressions of opinion on any other
matter - for example, determining criminal or civil liability - are
not allowed. However, the Coroner does have the power to
investigate not just the main cause of death, but also "any acts or
omissions which directly led to the cause of death". More
information on the role of a Coroner.
Why has Judge Thornton been appointed as
Because of the exceptional circumstances of this death it was
thought sensible to have a senior judge to conduct the Inquest.
When does the Inquest start? The inquest
resumes on Monday 28 March 2011.
Where are the hearings being held? The Inquest is
held at the IDRC, 70 Fleet St, London EC4Y 1EU
Do the accredited media have access? Yes. However,
space in the courtroom is limited and priority is given to
Interested Persons. Arrangements have been made to provide greater
press and public access to proceedings through the provision of a
court annexe with audio and visual links to the court room. Those
attending the Inquest should note that the courtroom is subject to
the same restrictions as would apply to normal court proceedings.
When the court is sitting the use of mobile telephones, other
communications or recording equipment, cameras and personal stereos
is strictly prohibited. Smoking, eating and drinking is also
restricted. Further information and rules for the media are found
under separate sections on this website.
Do the public have access?
Yes although the number of Interested Persons in these proceedings
means that seating in the court room is limited and priority is
given to those participating in the Inquest. Arrangements have
therefore been made to provide public access to the proceedings
through the provision of a court annexe with audio and visual links
to the court room. On the days when there are hearings members of
the public can enter the IDRC approximately 30 minutes before the
hearing begins. Those attending the Inquest should note that the
court is subject to the same restrictions as would apply to normal
court proceedings. When the court is sitting the use of mobile
telephones, other communications or recording equipment, cameras
and personal stereos is strictly prohibited. Smoking eating and
drinking is also restricted.
Are transcripts of proceedings and evidence made
The Coroner publishes on this website transcripts of proceedings
that take place in open court, although there may be a delay in
publishing legal argument held in the absence of a jury. Where
possible the Coroner also publishes evidence seen and heard in open
court during the course of the Inquest. This is signposted for
media on this site.
Who can be called to give evidence in an
The Coroner is solely responsible for deciding which witnesses will
be heard and the legitimate scope of questions, although of course
he canvasses Interested Persons in advance. Witnesses who may be
called to give evidence will be those who can provide material and
relevant evidence on the issues identified.
Can witnesses be compelled to attend or provide evidence
for an inquest?
The Coroner can compel witnesses to give evidence if they are in
the jurisdiction and are properly summonsed. If witnesses are
outside the jurisdiction the Coroner can ask the authorities
concerned to exercise their powers, which may vary according to the
What are the possible outcomes in an
In general terms, possible verdicts include: natural causes,
accident, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing, industrial disease,
and open verdicts (where there is insufficient evidence for any
other verdict). There may also be a narrative verdict which sets
out in narrative form how the person died. The Coroner may also
report the death to any appropriate person or authority, if action
is needed to prevent more deaths in similar circumstances.
Who may take part in and can be represented at an
Anyone deemed by the Coroner to have what is called "a proper
interest" may ask relevant questions of a witness at an inquest.
They can be:
• a parent, spouse, child, partner and representing the estate
of the deceased;
• anyone who gains from a life insurance policy on the
• any insurer having issued such a policy;
• anyone whose actions the Coroner believes may have caused or
contributed to the death, accidentally or otherwise;
• the chief officer of police (who may only ask witnesses
questions through a lawyer);
• any person appointed by a government department to attend
• anyone else who the coroner decides also has a proper
Will there be a jury?
Why is the website
The Coroner decided a website would be helpful and this was the
best domain name available.