In Australia, the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act of 1998 requires that the death of a person, like their birth and marriage, must be properly recognised and officially recorded in the state registry. As such, all information pertaining to it must be in the death certificate. However, when there is doubt with regards to its cause, an investigation or inquiry may be conducted on how and why it happened. This is when the coroner steps in. The coroner’s office is the one responsible for investigating deaths and those which are suspected to have been caused by other people. These are commonly referred to as reportable deaths. It is also responsible for investigating fire and disasters or calamities that might have a high level of impact on the general public.
Deaths are considered reportable under the following conditions:
The coroner is usually notified of the reportable death by a police officer or a medical practitioner. If anyone believes that the police and the medical officer failed to inform the coroner, then he or she may assume the duty of reporting the death. Failure to provide information pertaining to a death may be charged as a criminal offence.
In Australia, the Coroners Act of 1996 requires that in a reported death, the coroner conducting the investigation must find the following, if possible: the identity of the deceased, how the death occurred, and its cause. These and other specifics are needed to officially include the death in the registry.
An inquest proceeding is a court hearing conducted by the coroner. It is not a trial, so there is no jury. Its purpose is to determine the circumstances leading to or that caused the death, based on the accounts of the persons invited to the inquest, as well as on the evidence gathered and presented. Although the inquest is usually held in public, the coroner may decide to exclude some people. Those who can attend the inquest are the police, medical officers, the family of the deceased, experts, eyewitnesses, and others who can shed light on how the death occurred. For the public’s interest, the results may or may not be publicized.
Coronial Inquests are less formal than a regular hearing. Its aim is to establish facts about the case and not to establish the culpability or liability of anyone.
If you have information about a death, you may be invited to attend the proceedings, or the police may take your statement. You or a legal adviser may represent you during the hearing. Although it is not a trial, it is best that you consider seeking assistance from the experts.
Contact our team today to discuss how we can help with coronial inquests and coronial inquiries.
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