From ArticleWorld

A Coroner is an officer who holds inquests or inquiries with regard to violent, sudden, or unexplained deaths. This is sometimes an elected position, and the individual is appointed locally, funded by the Local Authority but with Crown authority; hence the term – Her Majesty’s Coroner. A coroner is usually a person who has a medical and/or legal qualification and at least five years experience.



The role of the coroner is to determine the cause of death in case the death was violent, unnatural or sudden. The coroner has the authority to order a postmortem or an inquest in case of suspicious deaths that may have happened abroad or in police custody. He has to determine who the deceased was, how, when and where he/she died and to enquire into the circumstances.


An inquest is an inquiry held by the coroner where all angles of the death are thrashed out. The scene of the ‘accident’ is recreated, witnesses are asked to take the stand and speak; the will or the financial position of the deceased is gone into; and, doctors are asked to bear witness and give their view. After collecting all the facts and figures the coroner returns a verdict. This may commonly be death by misadventure or by accident. Sometimes, in cases of murder the coroner returns a verdict of death by person or persons unknown, and in very rare cases may also order exhumation of the body for post mortem.

Layman’s duties

If a person comes across a body, the incident needs to be reported to the concerned coroner under whose jurisdiction the body was discovered. This is also the case when bodies are brought to England and Wales from abroad. In case a coroner is doubtful about a death he can carry out investigation related to it with the help of an assistant who is usually an ex-policeman. The coroner’s court is the court of law for holding inquests and the coroner has the right to decide if the case needs a jury or not. A jury is generally pressed into service in case of deaths in police custody.

In America

In the US an elected coroner is called the medical examiner and must be a physician and often a specialist in pathology. In some states the Sheriff holds the extra charge of the coroner and in some rural areas the local funeral director is the coroner. He has the right to order an autopsy in case of suspicious deaths.