How long will the process take?
We understand that most families would like to have the inquest process completed as soon as possible. We conduct the investigation as quickly as we can while still being thorough.
If there was no post mortem examination, as soon as the inquest is opened, we will set a date for the final hearing. This will be approximately 4 months ahead. This gives time to obtain all the paper evidence we need, and to call doctors to attend without them having to cancel clinics and surgeries.
If there was a post mortem examination, we need to give time for the results of the PM and any microscope or blood analysis work to come in. We list a mention hearing for three months after the inquest is opened. This is not a hearing in court and no-one from the family needs to attend. It simply means that the Coroner and the Officer responsible for the case meet in the office to check on progress and for the Coroner to give any new instructions. Unless the case is particularly complex, we aim to set a date for the final hearing around 3 months after the mention hearing.
In some cases, we may need to have a pre-inquest review hearing. This is an administrative hearing to agree on matters such as what reports should be obtained, which witnesses need to be called, whether a jury is needed or if special provisions of human rights law apply. The purpose is to have these issues resolved in advance so that the final hearing can go ahead smoothly, and not be disrupted or adjourned because an important piece of evidence is missing. No witnesses attend a pre-inquest review hearing and no evidence is given. Family members will be invited to attend and usually find it helpful to come.
In other cases, a short-form inquest is appropriate. We would use this when there is a legal requirement to hold an inquest, but all the questions have been resolved by the paper evidence. The Coroner goes to the courtroom and reads the evidence into the formal record and comes to their conclusion. No-one attends to give evidence in person. Relatives can come and observe if they choose. If your relative's inquest is potentially suitable, an officer will contact you by phone. We only use a short-form inquest if relatives consent.
We do have some older inquests still open that began before we started applying this procedure. Our officers are working hard to see them concluded as quickly as possible. If you want to check on the progress of your family member's inquest, you can contact the office at any time.