An inquest is essentially a public hearing which is chaired by the coroner which seeks to establish when, where and how a death occurred. It is not a trial and it is not in the coroner’s power to impose convictions or other penalties. The role of the coroner is to investigate the circumstances of a death and to make recommendations on how to avoid such deaths in the future.
Inquests will most commonly arise in relation to circumstances where the cause of death is unknown, where someone dies in a sudden, violent or unusual way or when someone dies whilst in state care or detention.
-Death in Prison – There will be an automatic Inquest following a death in prison whether it occurs due to natural causes, suicide or self-inflicted injuries, injuries caused by other inmates or prison officers. An Article 2 Inquest can be ordered in these circumstances.
-Deaths in Police Custody – An Article 2 Inquest can also be ordered in these circumstances. This type of Inquest relates to the ‘right to life’ enshrined in Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
-Deaths while detained under Mental Health Act – persons who are considered to be of unsound mind can be detained in a hospital or care facility. There is an enhanced duty of care to these patients as they are usually considered high risk. If there have been failings which have resulted in a death then it is important that an Inquest is ordered to properly investigate the circumstances of a death.
-Deaths in a hospital or care setting – Inquests of this nature generally relate to failings or negligence which have resulted in an avoidable death. Again, it is important to properly investigate the circumstances of deaths in hospital or care so that similar incidents can be avoided in the future.
Our human rights solicitors are vastly experienced in this area and have several ongoing Inquests before the Coroners Court. The coroner will generally encourage the participation of family members during the process. We act for a number of family members who have been identified as ‘properly interested persons’ in an Inquest. We advise family members of their role in an Inquest and will be on hand to provide representation and legal advice throughout the process.
We also provide advice and representation to other individuals who had some involvement with the deceased or who may have been a witness to the death for example. These individuals can also be named as ‘properly interested persons’.
Inquests are a very effective mechanism for properly investigating the circumstances of a death and can provide families with some form of closure.
Contact us for an initial enquiry. We will discuss the funding options which are available to our client’s, including Legal Aid, legal expenses cover and private paying.