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Investigating sudden deaths

When someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly the law says there must be an investigation into what happened. This is likely to happen if drugs are involved in your friend or relative’s death. It may not be the case for an alcohol-related death following a long illness. The investigation may involve a post-mortem (doctor’s examination of the body) and an inquest (public court hearing to find out who died, how and why). There is likely to be a delay before you can hold the funeral.

What is a Coroner? 

A Coroner is an independent official who investigates unexpected deaths. Coroners usually have a legal background but will also be familiar with medicine. 

Coroners investigate deaths that have been reported to them if it looks as if: 

  • the death was violent or unnatural 
  • the cause of death is unknown
  • the person died in prison, police custody, or another type of state detention 

In these cases Coroners must investigate to find out, for the benefit of bereaved people and for official records, who has died and how, when, and where they died. They may also make recommendations for the future, to avoid other similar deaths.