Inquests during coronavirus

All of our Inquests and Inquiries Team are working in accordance with the following guidance from the Chief Coroner and in line with the Bar Council’s Guidance. Clients should rest assured that members will be able to access and utilise appropriate technology solutions to enable electronic working and telephone/virtual hearings when instructed. Please contact the practice team with any queries or concerns.

Chief Coroner’s Guidance No. 35 on COVID-19, 27 March 2020.

Coroners are referred to Chief Coroner’s Guidance No. 9 on Opening Inquests. There is no provision for a coroner to be present at a hearing through Skype or phone, although the parties may attend remotely.

Chief Coroner’s Guidance No. 34 on COVID-19, 26 March 2020.

In summary, no physical hearing should take place unless it is urgent and essential business and where it is safe for those involved for the hearing to take place. A particular concern is to ensure social distancing in court and in the court building. Hearings taking place in public may mean they take place where only a member of the immediate family is present and with a representative of the press being able to be present.

The Chief Coroner outlines his approach and the procedure to be adopted in cases where death may be caused by COVID-19 at paragraphs 17 to 23.

A post mortem may not be necessary in all cases; this will need to be considered by coroners on a case-by-case basis: paragraphs 24 to 29.

The Chief Coroner considers it important that sufficiency of inquiry should be maintained as much as possible in prison deaths, but notes that there may be practical difficulties due to a lack of resource. A post-mortem examination may still be necessary even if the death was from natural causes, but where there are some issues with care. However, the nature of the COVID-19 emergency may mean that a post-mortem examination is not possible: paragraphs 38 to 42.

The Guidance does not apply to coroners in Northern Ireland and it does not apply in Scotland.

See also the Chief Coroner’s COVID-19 Note #3.

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