Where a coroner is obliged to investigate a death, a post mortem examination will usually be ordered. If so, the coroner must notify the deceased’s next of kin or personal representative (and any other interested person who has notified the coroner in advance of their wish to be represented at the post mortem) of the date, time and place at which this will be carried out. However, the coroner need not provide this notification if it is impracticable to do so or if this would cause the post mortem to be unreasonably delayed.
The next of kin or personal representative (and other interested persons who have given advance notification to the coroner of their wish to do so) are entitled to be represented at the post mortem by a medical practitioner. If they are themselves a medical practitioner then they can attend the post mortem, if they so wish.
If any material is taken and retained from the post mortem, e.g. tissue samples, the coroner must notify the next of kin or personal representative that this has been done, as well as of the reason why and what the options for dealing with the material once this is no longer required. The options include burial or cremation of the material, or returning this to the next of kin or personal representative.
The coroner must release the deceased’s body for burial or cremation as soon as this is reasonably practicable. If they cannot do so within 28 days of being made aware of the death, they must notify the next of kin or personal representative of the reason for the delay.
If the post mortem reveals the cause of death and the coroner thinks it is unnecessary to continue the investigation then an inquest will not be held, unless the coroner has reason to suspect the cause of death was violent or unnatural, or the deceased died in state detention.
If the coroner decides to discontinue an investigation into a death following the post mortem, they are obliged to give any interested person a written explanation as to why, if the interested person requests this in writing. If the coroner decides not to hold an inquest when it is arguable that they should have done, it may be possible to apply to the civil courts to request that one be held.