If a person dies of sudden, unexplained, violent or unnatural death then the Coroner who is an independent person is given the responsibility to investigate and determine whether or not a death was due to natural causes. The Coroner will arrange a Post Mortem examination and this is carried out by a Pathologist who is appointed by the Coroner. After the post mortem the Coroner may then decide to hold an Inquest.
At an Inquest it is the Coroner’s principal role to establish when, where and how the death occurred. It is not the Coroner’s role to determine who is responsible for the death and any criminal or civil liability cannot be considered or investigated. An Inquest is not a Trial but rather an enquiry into the facts that surround the sudden and unexplained death. The Coroner is independent to the Garda Síochána, Medical Services, State Agency or anyone who may have been interested in the outcome of the death investigations.
An Inquest is always held in public and the Coroner will decide whether or not a Jury will hear the case. In advance on the Inquest, the Coroner will receive depositions from the relevant people involved, Post Mortem Reports and Medical Records, if relevant. The Coroner may call medical or expert witnesses. The purpose of this is not to establish blame but rather to establish the circumstances surrounding the death. Evidence is heard in a logical sequence in relation to the circumstances surrounding the death. The Coroner has a sole responsibility to determine which witnesses should be called.
The types of cases dealt with by an Inquest involve road traffic accidents, accidents at work and unexpected deaths in a Hospital. Jury’s at an Inquest may also make recommendations to ensure a safer environment for the public.
Very often, the facts disclosed are also relevant if there are any other pending proceedings or related criminal or civil actions which may follow. As well as that very often a family will wish to have a Legal Representative to ensure that all aspects are presented in the most appropriate way.
At C. S. Kelly & Co. we have attended on behalf of our clients at many Coroners Inquests in both the Northern and Southern jurisdiction.
If you would like to discuss the matter of a Coroner’s Inquest, please feel free to call Ciaran MacLochlainn for advice.