The role of the Coroner and reporting deaths
Coroners are either lawyers or doctors and they have a duty to
investigate the circumstances of sudden, unnatural or uncertified
deaths that are reported to them. They have to find out the medical
cause of the death, if it is not known, and to enquire about the
cause of it. Coroners are also responsible for determining
issues of treasure trove.
Kent County Council is responsible for meeting all the costs of
the Coroners Service. The Kent Coroners are appointed by Kent
County Council but they are not employees. They are
independent judicial officers. This means that no one can
tell them or direct them as to what they should do but they must
follow the laws and regulations which apply.
Who reports a death to the Coroner?
Anyone who is concerned about the cause of a death can refer it
to the Coroner but in most cases a death will be reported by the
police, a doctor or a Registrar of births and deaths.
In what circumstances will a death be reported to the
If death occurs in any of the following circumstances, it may be
reported to the coroner:
- after an accident or injury
- following an industrial disease
- during a surgical operation
- before recovery from an anaesthetic
- if the cause of death is unknown
- if the death was violent or unnatural - for example, suicide,
accident or drug or alcohol overdose
- if the death was sudden and unexplained - for instance, a
sudden infant death (cot death)
- In addition to this, if the deceased was
not seen by the doctor issuing the medical certificate after he or
she died, or during the 14 days before the death, the death must be
reported to the Coroner.
What happens once the death has been reported?
The coroner may be the only person able to certify the cause of
death. The doctor will write on the Formal Notice that the death
has been referred to the coroner. The Formal Notice is issued to
you by the attending doctor and is a document which explains how
you register the death. The coroner will then decide whether
there should be further investigation into the death and the
Registrar cannot register the death until notified of the Coroner's
decision. This means that the funeral will usually be delayed.
Where a post-mortem has taken place, the coroner must give
permission for cremation.
The Kent Coroners are supported by Coroners Officers who are
employed by Kent Police. On behalf of the Coroner their role
is to receive information of sudden, violent, suspicious or
unnatural deaths for which no death certificate has been issued,
investigate causes of death by obtaining written statements and
collating and assembling evidence, establish contact with relatives
of the deceased and their representatives and keep them informed of
the procedures and progress, and to arrange post mortems and