The Coroner is an independent judicial officer discharging duties in accordance with the Coroners Act 1988 and other relevant legislation. Although appointed and paid by the local authority, the Coroner is not a local government officer but holds office under the Crown. Coroners are required to have a general legal qualification or be a legally-qualified medical practitioner – in either case of not less than 5 years’ standing.
The duties of the Coroner are to:
- investigate the circumstances of the deaths of all persons who have died within their jurisdiction where they have reason to believe that the death was violent, unnatural or of unknown cause
- decide whether a post mortem examination is necessary for the purpose of their investigation and, if so, give directions to an appropriate medical practitioner;
- hold an inquest, with or without a jury, where they are satisfied that they are required to do so in accordance with Section 8 of the Coroners Act 1988;
- notify the Registrar of Deaths of the findings of the inquest or, if no inquest is held, of the fact that the death reported to them does not need to be subject to an inquest;
- pay the relevant fees and allowances to witnesses and jurors, and to submit accounts to the Council;
- make annual returns to the Secretary of State in connection with the inquests held and deaths they have inquired into; and
- appoint a Deputy Coroner and, if required, an Assistant Deputy Coroner.
The Council is responsible for appointing the Coroner, but may only do so with the approval of the Home Secretary.