Coroners are independent judicial office holders. They are a type of specialist judge who investigates and explains certain kinds of deaths. Unlike the rest of the judiciary, are appointed by local authorities. There are currently 83 coroner areas across England and Wales and each jurisdiction is locally funded.
Each coroner area is led by a Senior Coroner. Some local authorities also appoint one or more Area Coroners to support the Senior Coroner in addition to the appointment of a number of Assistant Coroners.
The office of the coroner was formally established in 1194, originally as a form of tax gatherer. In the centuries since this has evolved and now the role of the Coroner is to investigate deaths if they have reason to suspect that;
- The death was violent or unnatural; or
- The cause of death is unknown; or
- The deceased died while in state detention.
In exceptionally high profile cases or for other legal reasons a judge may be appointed to hold an inquest into a death, more information on this can be found in the section on judge led inquests.
The Chief Coroner heads the coroner service in England and Wales, this role was created under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. The current Chief Coroner is His Honour Judge Thomas Teague KC, more information can be found on the Office of Chief Coroner page.
Coroners are supported by Coroner’s Officers who are usually employed by either the local police service or the local authority. Coroner’s Officers support the Coroner in their investigation, communicate with relatives and make inquires at the direction of the Coroner.
Coroners are also responsible for holding Treasure inquests for any finds found within their jurisdiction. This is a historic role now under Treasure Act 1996 (external link).
Find out more information about your local coroner court or visit your local authority’s website.