Who is the Coroner for Suffolk and what is his role?
Dr. Peter Dean is the Coroner for Suffolk.
The role of the Coroner is to investigate deaths that have been reported to them if it appears that:
- the death was violent or unnatural
- the cause of death is unknown
- the person died in prison, police custody or any type of state detention
These deaths must be investigated by the Coroner to find out who had died and how, when and where they died.
What is a Coroner's Officer?
Coroner's Officer's work under the direction of the Coroner and liaise on his behalf with the bereaved relatives, police, doctors, mortuary staff, hospital bereavement staff and funeral directors.
When and why is a death reported to the Coroner?
Deaths must be reported to the Coroner in certain circumstances. These will include:
- the deceased has not been seen by a doctor during his/her last illness
- although the deceased has been seen by a doctor during the last illness, the doctor is not able or available to certify the death
- the cause of death is unknown
- the death occurred at work
- the death is due to an industrial disease or poisoning
- the death was sudden and unexplained
- the death was unnatural
- the death was due to violence or neglect
- the death was due to other suspicious circumstances
What is a Post Mortem?
A Post Mortem is the examination of a body to find the cause of death. It is an independent examination and carried out by a pathologist. The Coroner decides whether or not a post-mortem examination is needed. He is not required to obtain consent from the family, but he will give you a reason for his decision.
What happens after a Post Mortem?
The pathologist sends a report to the Coroner following the Post Mortem which gives details of the examination, any tissues/organs retained and any tests for drug and alcohol levels which may have been carried out. This report may sometimes not be available for several weeks depending on the complexity of the tests.
Will the funeral be delayed if there is a Post Mortem?
Funerals are not usually delayed if there is a Post Mortem. If the examination shows the cause of death, the Coroner will usually then release the body to enable the funeral to take place. If the Coroner decides that further investiagtion is needed, he may still release the body so that the funeral can take place, whilst further investigations are continued.
Occasionally this is not possible - in this instance the Coroner's Office will explain the arrangements to you.
When can I register the death?
If the post-mortem examination shows the cause of death, the Coroner will send a report to the Registrar of Births and Deaths to enable the death to be registered. You will be advised by the Coroners Officers when this has happened and when you can make an appointment to attend the Registration Office to register. If an inquest is to be held into the death, you will be issued with interim death certificates and the death will be registered after the inquest has taken place.
What is an Inquest?
If it was not possible to find the cause of death from the post-mortem examination, or the death is found to be un-natural, or if the Coroners thinks there is good reason to continue his investigations, an inquest will be held.
An inquest is held to establish how, when and where the person died. A Coroner's Inquest is an inquiry and not a trial, and is not a fault finding process, but a fact finding one.
Will I need to attend the Inquest?
Not if you do not wish to. Some bereaved people prefer not to attend, as it can be distressing. If you choose to attend, the Coroner's Officer who has been assisting you, will be available as support for you.
What happens after the Inquest?
The Coroner (or the jury where there is one), will come to a conclusion, stating formally who died, where, when and how they died. He may also make 'findings' to allow the death to be registered.
How do I register the death after an Inquest?
It is not necessary for you to attend a Registration Office to register the death. This will be done on your behalf by the Registration Service, using documents from the Coroner. You will be advised by the Coroner's office who to contact to obtain copies of the death certificate.
Need more information?
A new publication is available, which explains what can be expected from a Coroner's Investigation and the Standard of Service that can be expected. You can get an electronic version of this publication here