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Understanding the Coroner Role & Preparing for Coroner’s Inquest:

A Family Perspective

Dorit Braun
Retired Charity Chief Exec with personal experience of a coroner’s inquest

• what families want from a Coroner’s Inquest
• our journey and experience
• the importance of involving bereaved people to be involved throughout the inquest process

Dorit shared her family experience following the tragic death of her daughter-in-law.  Her presentation covered some important messages, including:

- think about how your statement might feel to families
- the term "inquest" is frightening to families, they felt they were going to be judged
- it's important to understand it's a court of truth and not blame
- understand that the experience is distressing for families and how you behave in court matters to them

Asked what organisations should have in place for family liaison, Dorit said; you can apologise without admitting blame, put things in writing to express what you are having to do, why and how the family can be involved, and listen to see if you can learn.

The Coroner Role

Richard Furniss Barrister, 42 Bedford Row 
Assistant Coroner, West London Coroner’s Court

• notification of deaths to Coroner
• investigatory roles of Coroner
• what is unnatural death and opening an inquest
• Covid-19 deaths

As a Barrister and Assistant Coroner Richard explained that he can see both sides.  In his presentation he covered the role of the Coroner and when to report deaths.  He said a death should be reported to the Coroner if you do not think it is a natural death. If the cause of death is unclear the Coroner will request a post mortem.  The Coroner's investigation comes after if the cause of death is still unclear.  Opening the inquest is a formality, it's normally short and uncontroversial and then it is adjourned.  Richard went on to look at unnatural deaths in the context of Covid-19 (a naturally occurring disease) and the practical problems for the Coroner for example if Covid was contracted from poor PPE practice, or work related exposure (for deaths in employment). 

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