Inquests and trials after a major incident

If you are involved in a major incident you may be asked to take part in an inquest or trial as part of the investigations carried out after the event. The procedures you may be involved with may seem complex but there is information and help available.

Inquests

An inquest is an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding a death. The purpose of the inquest is to find out who the person was and how, when and where they died, and to find out the details the Registrar of Deaths need to register the death.

An inquest is not a trial. It is not the role of the Coroner to decide any question of criminal or civil liability or to apportion guilt or attribute blame.

Once the Coroner’s investigation into a death is complete, the Coroner will decide if an inquest is to be held. This can take some time to complete and is dependent on the circumstances of the death and the final report of the postmortem examination.

If the Coroner is informed that someone has been charged with an offence directly linked to the death, the inquest or a decision on whether to hold and inquest, will not be made until the criminal proceedings end.

If an inquest is to be held a date will be arranged in consultation with the family. Inquests are open to the public and the media.

Coroners decide who should give evidence as witnesses at an inquest. Witnesses will first be questioned by the Coroner, and there may be further questions by ‘properly interested people’ or their legal representatives. Person’s with a ‘proper interest’ include:

  • relatives of the deceased
  • the executor(s) of the deceased’s will or a person appointed as the deceased’s personal representative
  • solicitors acting for the next of kin
  • insurers with a relevant interest
  • anyone who may, in some way, be responsible for the death
  • others at some special risk or appearing to the Coroner to have a proper interest

The findings of an inquest will record the essential facts about the means by which the deceased came by his or her death.

Find out more about Coroners, post-mortems and inquests.

Trials

If you are a victim or a witness to a major incident, you could be asked to give evidence if a case is brought against someone, the police and Public Prosecution Service (PPS) believe is responsible.

Going to court can be an overwhelming experience, but there is a lot of support out there for victims and witnesses. Find out more at the links below.

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