What is the purpose of an inquest?

An inquest is a public judicial inquiry to find the answers to a limited but important set of questions:

  • “Who” the deceased was
  • “When” and where they died
  • The medical cause of their death
  • “How” they came by their death

It is usually the 'how' question that is the main focus of the inquest.  The Coroner cannot, in law, deal with any other matters.

It is a fact-finding process.  It does not deal with issues of blame or responsibility for the death, or with issues of criminal or civil liability.  These can be addressed in other courts if necessary.

It is very much in the public interest to have an effective inquest system.  It safeguards the legal rights of the deceased's family and other interested persons, highlights lessons to be learned and advances medical knowledge.  Many families also find it helps to have the chance to ask questions and, at the end of the process, know that they have the full and accurate facts about their loved one's death.