Who will be in court?
Inquests are held in open court. That means that any friends and family of the deceased are welcome.
The Coroner will often require one particular member of the family to attend. This will be the person who made the background statement to the Police, which means it may not be the closest relative or next of kin. If there is another closer relative, we will inform them of the date and give them the option to attend. If the Coroner does not require a member of the family, we will still inform the next of kin of the date and give them the option to attend. We ask the people who receive letters to share the information with other family members.
If we ask a family member to attend court but they would prefer not to come, they can apply to be excused. They should do so in writing, giving their reasons, and the Coroner will make a decision.
If you want to bring someone to support you, you are welcome to do so. They do not need to have known the deceased. This may be a friend, union rep, support worker or minister of religion.
The Coroner will also require other witnesses to attend. This will be different for each case, but may include doctors, nurses, police officers, eyewitnesses and any other relevant people. Not everyone who has written a report or made a statement will be present. The Coroner can decide that some pieces of written evidence are brief or straightforward enough to be admitted on their own, without the author attending to give oral evidence. If you have an opinion on which witnesses should be there or want to ask questions of a particular person, inform the office in writing and the Coroner will take your views into account.
For obvious reasons, an inquest hearing is not a suitable place for children and young people. The Coroner may allow small babies into the courtroom at their discretion. Please make alternative care arrangements for all other under 16's. Children cannot be left unattended in our waiting room. If a young person under 16 wants to come to a close relative's inquest, the Coroner may allow it. A responsible adult must stay with them.
Because inquests are held in open court, members of the press and media have the right to attend. In practice, reporters are rarely present. However, if your relative's case does attract media attention, it may be helpful to decide beforehand if you wish to speak to any reporters. If you decide that you do not, Court staff will help you to leave without being disturbed. We cannot prevent accounts of the inquest being published or broadcast.
If there may be conflict between you and someone else who is attending, please tell us as soon as you are aware. We have procedures that we can put in place to keep people separate and safe.