Coronial Inquests

In both New South Wales and Queensland the occurrence of a reportable death triggers an investigation by the Coroner.  Such deaths must be unnatural, suspicious, causes unknown or healthcare related.  The role of the Coroner is primarily to determine the manner of death.  In other words, how did death come about, rather than what caused the death.  What caused the death is usually already determined by the post mortem.   Having said all of that, it must be remembered that in New South Wales a Coroner can adjudicate on whether a next of kin’s objections to a full post-mortem should be upheld or not.

Now, although in some cases it is mandatory, in others an Inquest is not automatically granted by the Coroner.  There are many reasons why parties might seek an Inquiry.  Sometimes a next of kin might simply want to be heard on the cause of a loved one’s death.  That was primarily the case when I appeared in the matter of Inquest into the death of (name removed).

On other occasions they may be wanting confirmation of their suspicions about the cause of death and to lay the platform for a potential prosecution or wrongful death claim.  Alternatively, parties who are either witnesses to the events leading up to and surrounding the death or are potentially part of the cause of death itself, may want representation at the Inquiry in order to protect their interests.  Obviously, this is best done through using experienced competent legal representation.  The need to protect oneself is especially acute if you happen to be the person who police suspect may be most closely linked with the manner of a deceased’s death.  The reason for this is that in both States the Coroner’s court is not bound by the usual rules of evidence and may inform itself how it sees fit.  And in Queensland there is no privilege against self-incrimination if you are summonsed to give evidence at an Inquest.  The position in New South Wales is not as straight forward.  This fact alone can have huge consequences for a person facing or already dealt with on criminal charges arising out of the facts before the Inquest.  It is quite a complex area of law.

These are very good reasons to approach any appearance before a Coronial Inquest with great caution.  Beyond that, these are usually matters involving very sensitive issues which can easily upset and distract participants from the real issues before the Inquest.

These are just a few notable matters connected to Coronial Inquests.  If you have any queries or require any assistance with a Coronial matter, please do not hesitate to contact us by calling (07) 5619 6860 or 0409 273 430