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UNDERSTANDING CORONIAL INQUESTS

Updated: Aug 20


When a reportable death occurs, there may be a coronial inquest held by the coroner, used to investigate further into the circumstances of the death.

What is a coronial investigation, and what is the role of the coroner?

In Queensland, coronial inquests are outlined in the Coroners Act 2003.

The basis for a coronial inquest can vary, however they usually relate to unexpected or otherwise unusual deaths. These deaths are ‘reportable’ and are notified to a special magistrate called a coroner.


The coroner is a magistrate that is associated with Magistrates Courts, and it is their duty to investigate these reportable deaths.


The investigative facts will include:

• the person’s identity,

• when, where and how they died; and • the medical cause of death.


Coronial inquests can also aid in death rate reduction. Because the inquests analyse the actions that transpired, there can be subsequent measures taken to ensure the likelihood of similar incidents are less frequent.


What Deaths are Notifiable or Reportable?

The coroner needs to be notified when someone dies if:

· the cause of death is unknown;

· the identity of the person is not known;

· the death was violent or unnatural, such as accidents, falls or suicides;

· the death was suspicious;

· the death occurred in care;

· the death occurred in custody or as a result of police operations; or

· death was the unexpected outcome of health care being provided.

(health.qld.gov.au)


However not all of these reportable deaths will constitute a coronial investigation. It’s up to the coroner to determine whether an investigation will be required.

In saying this, there are proceedings that must be subject to inquest, such as: • deaths arising from a police operation; and • deaths in custody.

When Criminal Charges Arise

There are times when criminal charges can be laid against an individual regarding the reportable death.


In these cases, the coroner has the ability to refer matters to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions if they believe criminal behaviour is involved.


How long will the inquest take?

There are several steps involved in these proceedings. Unfortunately, these inquests could take a number of years to be finalised. Moreover, the length of each specific coronial inquest will depend on the amount of evidence at hand along, the facts and complexities.


The importance of legal advice and representation

There can be various reasons for one to obtain legal advice or representation amongst coronial inquest proceedings.


A person may express interest in the matter of an inquest and may obtain legal representation for this process. Secondly, if a person is required to appear as a witness, they are also entitled to legal representation.


Furthermore, an individual may require support when criminal behaviour is involved.


The team at Creevey Russell Lawyers is experienced in appearing at coronial hearings and inquests and is willing to assist in representing you at all or parts of a Coronial matter.


Creevey Russell Lawyers, Coronial Inquests Creevey Russell Lawyers understands the importance of inquests, and the stressful nature of these proceedings.

Our team has the ability to tailor representation to best suit the needs of the party we are representing for example, our team understands that the representation given to the family of a deceased person may be very different to the approach taken in representing a professional body.


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