Coroner Careers

How to become Coroner

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.

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 or accident
  • within prison or police custody
  • an industrial disease such as asbestosis
  • during an operation or under anaesthetic
  • a 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 exhumed.

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).

Coroners are 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 practice.

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
  • be 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 no knowledge
  • be able to work with a wide range of people such as police officers, witnesses and the media
  • 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

Further information

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 (DCA)
Coroners Division
4 Abbey Orchard Street
Tel: 020 7340 6659

Coroners’ Society of England and Wales
The Court House
Bewdley Road
Stourport on Severn
DY13 8XE

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