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Inquest Representation

The investigation is held in public at a Coroner's Court in cases where a death was sudden, violent or unnatural, a death occurred in prison or police custody or the cause of death is still unknown after a post-mortem (an examination of a body after death)

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“I was very happy with the service provided by Bridge McFarland and Chris Green. You were very helpful, friendly, informative and genuine in their concern for my case and needs. I was delighted with the outcome of the case, I did not expect to receive that much in compensation and detailed help. Chris, you’re a star and Bridge McFarland is very lucky to have you working for them. Thank you for your time and genuine concern. Ashley Connor ”
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An inquest is a legal investigation to establish the circumstances surrounding a person's death.

A Coroner's Court is a legal body that helps determine how, when and why a person died. Coroners are independent judicial officers who are usually lawyers or doctors with appropriate training in law.
 
Unlike criminal trials, inquests do not try to establish whether anyone was responsible for a person’s death. Evidence is given by witnesses but there is no prosecution or defence. 
 
When an inquest is held, the Coroner must inform the deceased person's partner, nearest relative and representative (if they are different). 
What happens during an inquest?
 
An inquest will be opened soon after the death. This allows the death to be recorded, the deceased to be identified and the Coroner to give authorisation for a burial or cremation to take place as soon as possible.
 
After the inquest has been opened, it may be adjourned (postponed) until after any other investigations have been completed. 
 
In some cases, the Coroner may hold one or more additional hearings before an inquest begins, known as Pre-Inquest Review Hearings. These allow the extent of the inquest to be considered to include the evidence that is to be heard and whether that evidence is to be given orally or in writing.
 
During an inquest, witnesses chosen by the Coroner will give evidence. The Coroner usually asks the witness to summarise events in their own words before asking them questions to clarify any points. 
 
Anyone who has a "proper interest" can also question a witness. Someone with a proper interest is:
  • a parent, spouse, child, civil partner and anyone acting for the deceased 
  • anyone who gains from a life insurance policy of the deceased 
  • any insurer who has issued such a policy 
  • anyone whose actions the Coroner believes may have contributed to the death accidentally or otherwise 
  • the chief officer of police (who may only ask questions through a lawyer) 
  • any person appointed by a government department 
  • The Coroner will decide who is given proper interest status.
When a jury is needed
 
Most inquests are carried out by the Coroner alone. However, in some circumstances, the Coroner will call a jury to decide the verdict.
 
For example, a jury will be required if the death occurred in prison or in police custody, or if the death was the result of an accident at work.
 
The Coroner can also call a jury at their own discretion.
Relatives
 
Relatives of the deceased can attend an inquest and are able to ask the witnesses questions. However, they are only able to ask questions relating to the medical cause and circumstances of the death.
 
It is also possible for a relative of the deceased to be represented by a lawyer. In practice you should bear in mind the stress and emotional toll of the hearing. Also, a lawyer will appreciate the line of questioning that the Coroner might disallow and will be able to make a submission to the Coroner on the law and the "conclusion" at the end of the inquest.
Are Civil proceedings dependent on the outcome of the inquest?
 
In consequence of the limited nature of the inquest, its outcome does not dictate whether or not there can be subsequent civil proceedings for damages. However, the evidence given at the inquest may be very important and may form the basis of a subsequent civil trial. The inquest will probably be the only opportunity that the Deceased's family will have to ask questions of the witnesses and to get answers about the circumstances leading to the death. It is therefore a very important opportunity.  
 
If you, a family member or someone you know requires advice on a forthcoming inquest then please contact Ian Sprakes, Lorraine Taylor or Chris Green who are specialists in this area. 
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Ian Sprakes
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T: 01522 518 888

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Chris Green
Senior Solicitor

T: 01472 316 695

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Lorraine Taylor
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T: 01482 320 620

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Danielle Barney
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T: 01472 311 711

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