Coroners hold investigations or inquests into unexpected, unnatural or suspicious deaths.
- A violent or unnatural death
- Sudden death due to unknown causes
- Death whilst in custody or in state detention
- Death caused by accident, poisoning or industrial disease
- Death caused by drugs or alcohol
- Deaths abroad of British citizens
- Deaths during operations, anesthetic or surgical procedures
The Coroner decides if a post mortem examination is needed.
Family members are consulted before an inquest begins. You'll be told the dates of the inquest opening and conclusion and the Coroner's Office will keep you informed.
What happens at an inquest
The Coroner will confirm the identity of the deceased as well as how, when and where they died.
A jury is involved in the following cases:
- deaths in prison or in police custody
- deaths resulting from industrial accidents
- some cases of industrial disease
- situations where it's possible that further deaths may occur in similar circumstances to the one being investigated.
An inquest won't decide who's to blame as it's an inquiry, not a trial. It's the Coroner who calls for the evidence and asks questions first.
The verdict of an inquest can be challenged. Get advice from a lawyer.
Legal aid isn't normally available for an inquest, but if you're eligible you'll be able to get advice and support before the inquest begins.
Inquests are open to the public. See details of our current inquests.
What happens after an inquest
The Coroner registers the death with the Registrar for the district where the death happened. The family may then apply for a death certificate through the Registrar by completing an application form provided at the conclusion of the inquest.
Some deaths leads to Crown Court proceedings, such as when a person is charged with murder or death by dangerous driving. In such cases the inquest is adjourned. When the accused perpetrator is committed to crown court to be tried, the Coroner can issue documentation to enable the death to be formally registered. After the criminal proceedings have been completed the Coroner will decide whether the inquest will be resumed or closed.
Inquest files are archived. Information is available to family members and close friends. Contact the Coroner Service on 01707 292707 or send us an email.
Where inquests take place
Hertfordshire Coroner Service
The Old Courthouse
St Albans Road East
Call us on 01707 292707 or send us an email.
Map and directions
Report any item believed to be treasure to the Coroner's Service within 14 days of finding it. The Coroner will consult with the British Museum and will establish if any items that are found can be regarded as treasure.
For coins to be described as treasure they must be at least 300 years old. Other metal objects must also be over 300 years old and contain a minimum of 10% silver or gold or be a pre-Roman base metal.
Support for families
The Coroners' Court Support Service offers support and advice to families and witnesses going to inquests.
The Coroners' Courts Support Service
Victoria Charity Centre
11 Belgrave Road
0300 111 2141 or email Coroners' Court Support Service.
Registered Charity Number: 1105899
Coroner Service Charter – read more about what you can expect from us.
If you wish to contact the Coroner Service, call 01707 292707.