What happens in an Inquest?
The inquest will be dealt with by a Coroner, and its nature will depend on the circumstances of the death. If the factual background is uncontroversial, an inquest may be dealt with in a short hearing of only an hour or so. Where a case is more complicated, such as if someone has died in police custody, prison, an immigration detention centre, or while detained under the Mental Health Act, the process will be longer, will likely involve careful management by the Coroner, and conclude with a hearing that could last a number of weeks.
If the circumstances are particularly complicated, the Coroner may hold one or more meetings before the final inquest hearing to manage the investigation. This is called a pre-inquest review, and may deal with issues such as:
- Who should be an interested person. This is an individual or organisation that will have certain rights in the process, and will include family members and any other person with a sufficient interest in the case;
- Whether all of the relevant evidence has been disclosed;
- Which issues should be explored at the inquest (this is known as the "scope" of the inquest);
- Which witnesses should give evidence at the hearing;
- Whether expert evidence should be obtained or used at the hearing;
- Whether the hearing will be held with a jury;
- Whether Article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights (the right to life) applies; and
- The length of the final inquest hearing and the timetable.
The final hearing
The final hearing may involve the Coroner reading out documents and statements, witnesses giving live evidence about the factual background to the case, and evidence from experts on the relevant issues. The witnesses will be questioned by the Coroner and possibly other interested persons. At the end of the final hearing, the Coroner or a jury will reach a conclusion on when, where, and how the person came by their death. You can find more information on what conclusions might be reached here.
Coroner's Inquests Specialist Legal Advice
At Saunders Law, we offer expert legal assistance and representation in inquests and inquiries into non-natural deaths. We're well-known for our inquest work and thorough approach to complex cases. All of our solicitors within the Civil Liberties and Actions against the Police Department have experience of acting for families in inquest proceedings, including where someone has died in police custody, prison, an immigration detention centre, or while detained under the Mental Health Act.
For a free, no-obligation, initial discussion of how we may be able to help, please contact us today.