Inquests

Inquest

A coroner’s inquest is an inquiry held in public by a Coroner. In certain cases, inquests are required legally. An inquest is an inquiry held in public by a Coroner, sometimes with a jury.
In some deaths, inquests are legally required. In other cases, the holding of an inquest is at the discretion of the Coroner and the next-of-kin can make their views known to the Coroner, if they so wish.

Sometimes if a Coroner has not called for an inquest, a family who have suspicions over the death of a loved one can write to a Coroner setting out the reasons as to why an Inquest should be held. After further investigation, a Coroner may decide to accept their request.

When the jury or coroner makes their decision, they can make general recommendations that are designed to prevent deaths that are similar but they don’t make the determination as to whose fault the death was or even if there was a criminal offence.

When it is decided that an inquest is to happen, the relatives of the deceased will be notified as to the place and time of the inquest. The coroner can decide who gets to be a witness in the inquest; family members can contact the coroner if they have important information that could be used at the time of the inquest.

An inquest with a jury is necessary in the following situations:

  • When a death happened in prison
  • When a death is suspicious or might be a homicide
  • When a death was accidental or due to poisoning or a disease that is required to be reported to the government
  • When the death was caused by a road traffic accident
  • When the death may be prejudicial to the safety or health of the public
  • At the coroner’s discretion

Most deaths don’t require an inquest. When the inquest is done before a jury, the jury decides the outcome of the inquest. The purpose of an inquest involves the following:

  • To establish the exact facts regarding a death
  • To make the findings public on public record
  • To identify the deceased
  • To establish the place and date of death
  • To establish the cause of death

When the jury or coroner makes their decision, they can make general recommendations which are designed to prevent deaths that are similar but they don’t make the determination as to whose fault the death was or even if there was a criminal offence.

When it is decided that an inquest is to happen, the relatives of the deceased will be notified as to the place and time of the inquest. The coroner can decide who gets to be a witness in the inquest; family members can contact the coroner if they have important information that could be used at the time of the inquest.

The coroner will usually explain what the inquest process is before the actual inquest begins. Witnesses will be called in a logical sequence and, under oath, will give their testimony. When it comes time to reveal the autopsy results, the coroner will mention that and allow anyone who doesn’t want to be exposed to that information to leave and return after the evidence has be submitted to the jury.

Sometimes the inquest needs to be adjourned if, for example, there is an investigation that is ongoing. The investigations and criminal proceedings must be resolved before the inquest can happen. An adjournment can also happen if there is another investigation ongoing by another statutory agency, such as the Air Accident Investigation Unit.

At the end of the process, a verdict will be returned indicating the method by which the death occurred. It could be an accidental death, suicide, natural causes, death by misadventure, and in some cases, a homicide.

How can we help?

Our solicitors have represented bereaved families at inquests following the death of their loved ones.

The Coroner determines who can ask questions at inquest but usually anyone who has a proper interest in the inquest (a properly interested person) may personally examine a witness or be legally represented by a solicitor or barrister. A family do not require legal representation on their behalf but sometimes if a legal action is being taken as a result of the death, the family may decide to engage legal representation to attend an inquest.

For more information or to arrange a meeting freephone 1800 303 556 or email ascally@lavellesolicitors.ie

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of SI 518 of 2002.