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7 June 2014

I have been a Coroner's Officer now in London / England since 2006 and (most of the time) love my job. What I love about it is the variety - no day is the same, and that we are dealing with four areas, all of them very distinct.

  • law
  • medicine
  • police / forensics
  • bereavement care
There are downsides, of course. Ask my colleagues and they will all say: the enormous workload and staff shortages. It's a daily struggle between taking new death referrals (average about 4 a day per officer), answering the phone to general or specific queries from just about anyone, arranging post mortems, speaking to bereaved families, paperwork relating to death certification, correspondence from just about anyone from general queries over insurances over family tracing…., requesting evidence for court hearings, chasing evidence for court hearings, getting files ready for court, usher in court, explain court procedures to just about anyone who wants to known, manage the media, summons witnesses and juries, sending reports to bereaved families and other legally entitled ('interested') persons and the list goes one. But hey, I love it really I suppose. It just gets frustrating when someone tells you : I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO RING YOU FOR 1 HOUR NOW AND YOU DON'T ANWER YOUR PHONE. DO YOU EVER ANSWER YOUR PHONE? I'd love to say that I've been sitting in the lunch room knitting :) 

The purpose of writing here on my book blog about my job as a Coroner's officer is mainly for writers of (crime) fiction. I get asked often about Coroner's procedural areas i.e. when does a death get referred to the Coroner, what exactly do we do under certain circumstances, how does a Coroner's Court differ from a criminal court, where/when/ how does a death get referred etc. Also, there a lot of mis-understanding about what Coroner's do and also important, what we can't do. And, of course, for everyone who is interested in the subject or just curious. So, I'm hoping to make this a regular feature to talk about my work and mainly procedural questions. 

Very important disclaimer:

I can only tell you how the Coroner and Coroner's law in England/ UK work. Other countries may do things very differently. 

Even within England, different Coroner's may have different procedure.
Of course, they will all have to keep to the same law, but may deal with matters slightly differently. For example, due to the workload, in my jurisdiction we never attend the scene of a death. In countryside locations, this may be different. In our busy Inner London jurisdiction, we do post mortems and run court every working day - again, countryside locations may do this only once a week or even once a fortnight. 

Another important disclaimer I would like to add: I give general advice which is aimed at writers of fiction, or for anyone who might be interested in what the Coroner's Office does - I cannot give legal advice and what I say here on my blog is by no means legally binding - I'm not trained to give solid legal advice I'm afraid. While I'll try to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, I may make mistakes. 

In the following weeks,I hope to do this every every Saturday (or sometimes every other Saturday). In the following weeks I'm hoping to cover below list and anything else which takes my fancy:

  • what deaths are referred to the Coroner
  • what happens at a post mortem from the Coroner's point and when do we do it, rights of families
  • further investigations / inquests
  • specific deaths i.e. murder, road traffic collision, self harm, industrial disease, medical, drugs
  • time of death (one of the questions I get asked most often!)
  • toxicology
  • transfer of jurisdiction
  • what happens at a coroner's court hearing (who can speak, verdicts)
  • juries

This is the court where I work