If there are active complaints, civil or criminal proceedings

Active complaints

In addition to the inquest being opened, you may have made an official complaint about issues related to your relative's death.  Most commonly, the complaint is to a hospital, but the same applies to any organisation.

The Coroner will treat the complaint as a separate matter from the inquest.  We do not need to wait for it to be resolved before going ahead with the hearing. 

It can be helpful if you send copies of your correspondence to the Coroner.  It gives a fuller picture of the background and can suggest questions for him to ask, if appropriate.  You do not have to do this unless you wish; it is completely up to you.

Civil proceedings

If you are bringing a civil claim, for example following an accident or asbestos exposure, the civil proceedings will usually wait for the inquest to be concluded.  They are independent processes, but the outcome of the inquest may have a bearing on the civil case.  If you are legally represented for your claim, the same lawyers may be involved in the inquest.  You will want to speak with them about this.

Criminal proceedings

If there are criminal proceedings against a person or people who may have caused the deceased's death, the opposite is true.  The inquest will generally be put on hold until the criminal case is resolved.  This is because the inquest verdict needs to be compatible with what was found by the criminal courts. 

If someone is convicted (found guilty) of murder, manslaughter or causing death by dangerous driving following a trial, the Coroner will not normally resume the inquest as all the evidence has already been examined in open court.

If someone is charged but later acquitted (found not guilty), it may or may not be necessary to hold an inquest hearing.  Sometimes all the evidence has already been explored to a satisfactory degree.  At other times, it has not and the Coroner has a duty to do so.

Where there has been a criminal case, it is up to the Coroner to decide in each case whether an inquest needs to be held. He will normally write to the family of the deceased and seek their views.

If the case is referred to the Crown Prosecution Service and the decision is made not to charge anyone in connection with the death, or if no-one can be found to be charged, then an inquest will take place.