What does a Coroner do?
Coroners are independent judicial officers who are
responsible for enquiring into the medical causes of
sudden and unexpected, unnatural, violent or suspicious
Deaths are reported to the coroner by
the police or by a doctor called to the death. This is
usually done if the death has occurred in suspicious or
unforeseen circumstances such as:
- by violence
- within prison or police custody
- an industrial disease such as asbestosis
- during an operation or under anaesthetic
medical condition not previously recognised or treated
by a doctor.
Duties may extend to overseas
deaths if the body is returned for burial.
Coroners gather all the relevant information
surrounding a death in order to make a decision about
the cause; this is often decided by a preliminary
investigation and discussion with the deceased's GP
showing that the death was from natural causes.
Where there are questions surrounding the causes
of death the coroner may arrange for a post-mortem
examination to be carried out by a pathologist.
If the post-mortem shows that the death was not
due to natural causes the coroner will hold an inquest.
The purpose of this is to find out how the death
occurred, and to provide the particulars needed for
registration of the death. It is not the coroner's
responsibility to establish who is to blame for the death.
If necessary this will be pursued by the appropriate
authorities separately in civil or criminal proceedings,
although information resulting from the inquest may be
used in these.
Coroners may also need to
make decisions regarding issues such as organ
donation, cremation or burial overseas. In extreme
cases, they can also give permission for bodies to be
The coroner is responsible for
ensuring that all procedures follow legal requirements
and that the records required by law are properly kept.
In Scotland the coroner's role is carried out by
the Procurator Fiscal (see profile).
assisted by a deputy, assistant deputy and officers.
Officers are sometimes police officers who carry out this
role on a part-time basis.
What's the working environment like working as a Coroner?
Coroners and their deputies operate an on-call rota as
they need to be available at all times. Flexible working is
needed as many procedures must be carried out within
a limited time-frame. For example, post-mortem
examinations are usually carried out within 24 hours of
the discovery of the body.
Part-time work is
currently very common, often alongside private legal
Some travel is required between
scenes of crime, courts and related sites such as
pathologists' units. A driving licence is essential.
The normal retirement age for a coroner is 70.
What does it take to become a Coroner?
To work as a coroner you should:
- have a
sound knowledge of law and legal processes
aware of emotionally sensitive situations and their
impact on others, such as relatives
- be able to
work to set procedures and pay attention to detail
- have excellent communication skills when explaining
legal and medical terms to people who may have little or
- be able to work with a wide
range of people such as police officers, witnesses and
- be able to manage working on
different cases at the same time have good investigative
skills and be able to think logically.
Coroner Career Opportunities
If you would like to know anything about Coroner that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.
Vacancies are usually advertised locally. Details of your nearest coroner's office can be found on the Coroners’ Society website or obtained from your local police force, Citizen's Advice Bureau or telephone directory.Department for Constitutional Affairs
4 Abbey Orchard Street
Tel: 020 7340 6659
www.dca.gov.ukCoroners’ Society of England and Wales
The Court House
Stourport on Severn