What will happen in court?

Where should I come?

View information on how to find the court and where to park.

Please arrive 15 minutes before the inquest is due to start.  This will give time for the court usher to meet you, take your details and answer any questions you may have.

What is the courtroom like?

The main Court in the South Wales Central Coroner’s Area, is housed in the Coroner’s Office in Pontypridd. However, due to the size of the South Wales Central area, the Coroner also uses courts at other locations – such as Llandrindod Wells and Welshpool.  The court rooms are like most other court rooms used for civil or criminal cases.

Are there any do's and don'ts in the courtroom?

The Coroner's court is not as formal as some courts and we try to make things as comfortable as possible for relatives.  For example, the Coroner does not wear a wig and gown.  We do keep a few legal customs, such as standing when the Coroner arrives and when they leave.  The court usher will let you know what to do.  The Coroner can be addressed as 'Sir' or 'Ma'am'.  They understand that most relatives have no experience in court so please don't worry about finding the right words.  Any respectful comments or questions are welcome.

We also have some practical requests: please switch off mobile phones, do not eat, drink or chew gum in the courtroom and hats should not be worn (except for religious reasons). 

What order do things happen?

The Coroner will start by explaining what an inquest is in law and what issues he will be covering.  If there is a jury, they will be brought into court and sworn in at this point.  He will then ask each witness in turn to come to the witness box and go through their statement.  He will usually start with the family member who provided the background statement.

If you have mobility problems or are feeling particularly nervous and would rather give your evidence from where you are sitting, that is usually fine.  You will need to take either an oath on a holy book or a non-religious affirmation, stating that you will give true evidence.  The Coroner will then read out the statement you made and give you the chance to add to, change or confirm what you have said. 

After this, the Coroner will call on each of the other witnesses.  He will either go through their statement with them in the same way or ask them to present the main findings of their report.  The Coroner will ask any questions he has, and then invite the family and any other properly interested persons present to ask questions that they have. 

If the Coroner is admitting any written reports into evidence, he may read out relevant parts of them or ask the court clerk to do this.

When all the evidence has been heard, the Coroner will summarise the main points of the evidence before returning his conclusion.  Alternatively, if there is a jury, he will sum up the evidence to them before sending them out to decide the conclusion.  Legal representatives will have the chance to address the Coroner before he makes his final decision.

How long will it take?

Inquest hearings can last anything from 30 minutes to several days.  It depends what has happened and what issues need to be explored.  Most inquests take half a day or less.  We can give you an estimate when we call you to talk about arranging the date.

What happens if someone is responsible for my relative's death?

It is important to understand that an inquest is different from a trial.  It is not about deciding issues or guilt, blame or compensation.  It is purely a fact-finding inquiry.  These things are dealt with separately in the civil and criminal courts.  No sentence or penalty will be given to anyone by the Coroner.

This means that an inquest runs in a slightly different way from a trial.  For example, lawyers do not make opening and closing speeches, and questioning is straightforward and factual - there is no cross-questioning or attempts to 'trip up' a witness.  While people in court may have different outcomes they are hoping for, we ask everyone present to work in a spirit of co-operation to create a true account of what happened.