His Majesty’s Coroner holds office under the Crown and is an independent judicial officer.
The Coroner Service receives reports of deaths, makes enquiries on behalf of the coroner and liaises with relatives and potential witnesses.
Who is the coroner?
The senior coroner for the District of Manchester North which covers Rochdale, Oldham and Bury is Ms Joanne Kearsley.
Coroners are members of the judiciary and are not employed by the local authority. The local authority, however, does fund the Coroners Service.
What does the coroner do?
The coroner works closely with Greater Manchester Police (GMP). GMP provide specially trained officers, who work with relatives, arrange formal identification of bodies and take statements.
If an inquest is opened into the death of a loved one, it is likely that one of these police officers will phone or visit you. Ordinarily, it does not mean that there are any suspicious circumstances or anything to be concerned about. It is simply that the police have the skills and resources to go out into the community and gather information on behalf of the coroner.
The coroner has a duty to investigate a death if:
- The coroner is made aware that the body is within that coroner’s area, and
- The coroner has reason to suspect that:
- The deceased died a violent or unnatural death, or
- The cause of the death is unknown, or
- The deceased died while in custody or state detention
To assist in the investigation of a death the coroner may order a post-mortem examination of the body to take place to ascertain the cause of death and may also request information from any witnesses or clinicians who attended the deceased.
The coroner will hold an inquest unless the investigation is discontinued by reason, for example, the cause of death following a post mortem examination is found to be death by natural causes.
In some inquests, the coroner will also summon a jury.
What is the function of an inquest?
The function of an inquest is to record who the deceased was and when, where and how he or she came by the medical cause of death.
A conclusion is reached and the coroner records the details needed for the registration of the death.
It's not the function of an inquest to determine any question of civil liability or criminal liability on the part of a named person.
Inquest hearings are heard in the Coroner’s Court, and this is a court of law. The coroner can summon witnesses to attend, and evidence is given on oath.