Why has an inquest been opened?
The law says that the Coroner must open an inquest into a death if there is reasonable cause to suspect that the death was due to anything other than natural causes. There is no exact legal definition of a 'natural' cause of death. However, a common description is 'death due to a disease running its full course with no other intervening factors'. Advanced old age and extreme prematurity also count as natural causes. All other causes of death are regarded as non-natural.
The Coroner must also open an inquest into all deaths where the deceased was in the care or custody of the State and in some cases when they were subject to Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding. This is to help safeguard these vulnerable people.
Therefore the Coroner will open an inquest in the following situations:
- The cause of death found at post mortem examination is non-natural
- For inquests opened without a post mortem examination, the cause of death given by the reporting doctor is non-natural
- The cause of death is unascertained (not found) at post mortem
- There is other information giving reasonable cause to suspect that the death was non-natural
- The deceased was in the care or custody of the State at the time of their death
The Coroner also has the option to open an investigation, rather than a full inquest. This is explained on the next page.