Inquests generally involve unnatural or violent deaths. Medical deaths may become unnatural through a culpable human failure.
Inquests are not adversarial litigation and there are no parties. Instead, inquests have Interested Persons. Families are generally automatically Interested Persons and state agencies who were involved in the death may be added as Interested Persons by the coroner.
Disclosure is frequently a problem with inquests and applications may need to be made to a coroner for an order for a state agency to disclose documents to assist the coroner at the inquest. Large quantities of medical records or state agency records may need to be reviewed in order to try and understand the sequence of events leading up to the death.
A Judicial Review may need to be brought against s coroners in relation to adjournment of and refusal to hold inquests, as well as refusals to hold inquests under Article 2 and with a jury.
Expert reports may be helpful in convincing a coroner to hold an inquest, as well as to assist a coroner at an inquest by providing expert evidence.
Article 2 inquests have a broader scope, as they also examine the circumstances in which the deceased came by their death.
Jury inquests are frequently held when there is a reason to suspect that the Police caused or contributed to the death or whether the death occurred in a workplace.
Inquests involving medical systemic failures may have the potential to be held under Article 2 where there is also a regulatory failure.
Witnesses in inquests may decline to answer questions under Rule 22 of the Coroner’s Rules on the basis that they can invoke the right not to self-incriminate themselves.
In rare cases, normally involving high profile inquests, a Judge may hear an inquest, sitting as a coroner.