Deaths reported to the coroner
A coroner is an independent judicial office holder. They must make enquiries of any death that is reported to them and investigate the death if it appears that:
- the cause of death is unknown
- the death was violent or unnatural
- the person died in prison, police custody, or other type of state detention.
In Kent, coroners are responsible for carrying out these enquiries in partnership with Kent County Council.
What happens when a coroner is involved
Following a death, the deceased will be moved to a hospital mortuary.
If the death occurs in a place other than a hospital, then alongside Kent Police, we will support the coroners in Kent to discharge their statutory duties.
Arrangements are then made with a contracted funeral director by the police (on behalf of the coroner) to remove the deceased from the place of death to the hospital mortuary. The police and/or the funeral director will inform you of which hospital.
You are entitled to decide and make arrangements with any funeral director. Our contracted funeral directors are:
- Birds Family Funeral Directors (mid Kent, Medway, north west Kent, central and south east Kent)
- Jacksons Hub (mid Kent, Medway, and central and south east Kent)
- Stephen P Gay Funeral Service (north west Kent)
- Woollard & Kent Family Funeral Services Ltd (north east Kent, central and south east Kent).
The contracted funeral director is not permitted to promote their services in any way to you.
If you have any concerns about the removal of the deceased, please raise these with the funeral director in the first instance.
The coroners officer cannot begin their investigation or contact you, until the report of death has been received. This can take some time, particularly if the death occurred in a hospital.
Once the coroner has been informed about the death, the deceased is now under the coroner’s jurisdiction whilst preliminary enquiries and if necessary, a post-mortem is conducted.
They will contact you as soon as they can, however this is usually the next working day and after they've spoken to the deceased's general practitioner (GP).
Whilst there is a requirement to register the death within 5 working days, this does not apply when the death is reported to the coroner.
Please do not book a funeral date until the coroner advises you to do so.
For more information read the Guide to Coroner Services for Bereaved People published by the Ministry of Justice.
After speaking to the deceased's GP and in cases where the cause of the death is unknown, but believed to be due to natural disease, the coroner will need to establish a medical cause of death through a post-mortem examination.
A post-mortem examination is carried out by a pathologist acting on behalf of the coroner.
If the cause of death is found to be due to natural causes, the coroner’s officer will inform you of the cause of death and notify the registrar of deaths.
They will then explain how you can make an appointment to register the death.
In some cases the post-mortem does not reveal a cause of death, it may be necessary for further tests to be conducted.
The coroner must conduct an investigation with an inquest when the cause of death is:
- due to trauma or violence
- the person died in prison police custody or other state detention.
Where an investigation is taking place you will not be able to register the death.
The coroner’s office will provide you with copies of the coroner’s certificate of the fact of death for you to use, until the investigation is complete. After which time you will be advised about registration of the death.
You cannot use the coroner’s certificates to register the death.
The coroner’s office will explain what happens next when they phone to give you the results of the post-mortem examination.
If you have been asked to attend an inquest you can get support and guidance for bereaved people from the Coroners Court Support Service.
In all cases, the deceased person will be released as soon as possible after a post-mortem.
When speaking to the coroner’s officer, you must tell them who your chosen funeral director is and whether it will be a burial or cremation.
The coroner’s office will then advise your funeral director when they can collect the deceased from the hospital.
Once the coroner’s office has advised you of the cause of death they will send the information on a certificate to the registrar of deaths.
You will need to make an appointment to register the death.
To register a death that occurred in Kent:
For deaths that occurred in Medway:
- call: 01634 338899
- email: Register.Office@medway.gov.uk.
After the conclusion of the final inquest hearing the coroner will send a certificate to the registrar of deaths and arrange for the death to be registered.
You will be advised by the coroner’s office how to apply for a copy of the death certificate.
For deaths that occurred in the Medway area, the certificate centre will contact you when the certificate is available.
Kent inquest dates
Find out when inquests are being held in Kent:
For general enquiries:
- email: KentandMedwayCoroners@kent.gov.uk
- call: 03000 410502.
Bereavement and informing others
Once the death has been registered the next steps are to inform others of the death.
Read our advice page to find out who to talk to and what to do next.
Coroners' records are held at the Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone. These records are available after 75 years. To access these records use the Kent Archives and Local History Service online catalogue. If you require further assistance email email@example.com.
If the records are from within the past 75 years then email KentandMedwayCoroners@kent.gov.uk.