Victims of crime and the coroner
When a person dies in sudden, unexplained, violent or unnatural circumstances in Ireland, there will be an enquiry into the death. The "coroner" who is either a qualified doctor or a lawyer conducts the enquiry.
A post-mortem examination may be necessary, which may be followed by an "inquest". If a death is due to unnatural causes, then by law, an inquest must be held.
Arrangements that will not cause any unnecessary stress to family members should be made for the identification of the deceased person. Sometimes arrangements will be made for an alternative person to carry out the identification.
Post-mortems may be carried out following a death in certain circumstances. Information about the post-mortem procedure will be made available to the family of the deceased by the coroner's office. If they have requested it, the findings of the examination will be made known to the family.
Release for burial
The coroner will try to ensure that the body of the deceased is released without any undue delay and the family will be informed about the likely date and time of the release of the body.
An inquest is an inquiry held in public by a coroner, sometimes with a jury. The inquest looks into the circumstances surrounding the death. It's purpose is to establish the facts surrounding the death and to place those facts on the public record. It also makes findings on the identification of the deceased, the date and place of death and the cause of death.
The family will be informed of the date, time and place of the inquest as soon as possible.
The coroner or the jury may make a general recommendation designed to prevent similar deaths but the Coroner's Court cannot decide who is to blame for the death.
The enquiry into a death can often involve upset and trauma for relatives and families. Coroners should make sure that each stage of their work is carried out with sensitivity and respect for both the deceased and the grieving families.
After the inquest, the coroner will, if requested, make copies of documents available to the families for a fee.
Civil legal aid
At present there is no legislation providing you with an entitlement to civil legal aid in the Coroner's Court. However, a small number of ex-gratia, discretionary payments for legal representation at inquests have been made to families or next of kin of people who died in state care or custody or where the state was directly involved.
How to apply
If you have any complaints regarding the conduct of the coroner, you should contact your local authority or the Department of Justice and Equality. Further information is available in the Coroner Service Victims Charter (pdf).