One of the hardest things we may deal with is the sudden unexplained death of someone close to us. It can be complicated further when the matter is referred to the Coroner. This happens if the death is unexpected or suspicious, and the doctor or Police may contact the Coroner.
It is the Coroner who decides if a post mortem (also known as an autopsy) will be required. After the results of the post mortem the Coroner will assess whether an inquiry is needed, or even an inquest. The family of the person who died has the right to be kept informed by the Coroner’s Office and to receive certain documents relevant to the process.
An inquest (similar to a hearing) is conducted in the Coroners Court by the Coroner. A Coroner is similar to a judge and is a qualified lawyer. The Coroners Court is unique in that it is a “Court of Inquiry”, it is not a “Court of Judgment”.
The Coroner’s role is governed by the Coroners Act 2006. Under Section 4 of the Coroners Act a Coroner may open an inquiry to establish the cause of death, the circumstances surrounding the death, and also to make any specific recommendations that may reduce the occurrence of death in similar circumstances.
In some cases the matter may proceed to an inquest before the Coroners Court. The Coroner will then call on evidence from the Police, pathologists, whanau, family, relevant lay persons or any other person the Coroner thinks fit to examine. This can be daunting especially if you are dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Whether you have questions surrounding a death, or have been asked to assist the Coroner with inquiries, or have been summoned to give evidence at an inquest, I may be able to assist. Anyone attending the Coroners Court, or anyone who is part of an inquiry by the Coroner, is entitled to legal representation if they so choose.
Whilst I am not a legal aid provider I can offer you an initial free half hour consultation where I can discuss your concerns with you. If you would like me to assist you, we can discuss legal fees from there. Please telephone my office to arrange a time to come and see me.
I had the privilege of attending the Asia Pacific Coroners Conference in November 2019. The Conference reinforced to me the importance and uniqueness of the work of the Coroners Office.
Please contact me, I want to help.
Ngā mihi / Warm regards
Note: Katherine’s Blog is not a substitute for legal advice, please contact your lawyer.