When a death is reported to the coroner

Information about investigations, inquests and post mortems

If an inquest is needed

A coroner must hold an inquest if:

  • the cause of death is still unknown
  • the person might have died a violent or unnatural death
  • the person might have died in prison or police custody

Types of inquests

There are different types of inquest hearings.

  • An inquest opening is the official start of the inquest. This is usually a formality, and has to happen before more enquiries can be made.
  • A pre-inquest review is a meeting held in court to discuss the details for the inquest, like which witnesses will be called and when the final hearing will be.
  • A documentary inquest only looks at evidence on paper. No witnesses are needed.

What happens at an inquest?

Inquests take place in a court in Chelmsford and are open to the public.

Inquests aim to find out:

  • who died
  • when they died
  • where they died
  • how they died

By law the coroner can only look at these four things.

The coroner can call witnesses to help them answer these questions. Normally the coroner decides the answer to these questions, but in some cases a jury will be needed. Once the inquest is open, the coroner will ask their officers to make a file of information. This file will often include a statement from a family member. If a family member has concerns over the death, they can raise them in this statement or by writing to the coroner.

How we will communicate with you

One of the coroner’s officers will be assigned your case. They will keep you updated with what’s happening. The inquest date is usually set by the coroner once the inquest has been opened. We check with family members to make sure there is no serious reason not to hold the inquest on this date. We aim to complete the process as quickly as possible. Most inquests are finished between 3 and 9 months after the date of death.

Request an audio recording of an inquest hearing

To request an audio recording of an inquest hearing, email the Coroner’s office at Essex.CoronersService@essex.gov.uk, stating why you need it. You'll also need to provide proof of relation to the deceased (eg. birth or marriage certificate).

If your request is granted, you can order and pay for it by using our request a coroner's inquest recording online form.

The cost of the recording is £6. Please note: it may take up to 3 or 4 weeks to receive it.

Obtaining the death certificate

We can provide you with an interim death certificate prior to the inquest, if you need it. Once the inquest is heard we then contact the registrar's office who registers the death. They will be in contact with you to let you know when you can obtain the death certificate.

More information

For detailed information about what happens during an inquest, see Section 5 of the Guide to coroner services on GOV.UK.