J & R Killick Ltd.

Established 1879

Funeral Directors

112 High Street, West Wickham,
Kent, BR4 0ND
020 8777 4502

Information on what to do!

Here is some information that you may find useful

If a death occurs at home:

Telephone a doctor. He will visit to confirm a death has taken place.

Contact us on 020 8777 4502 for advice and information, further details here.

If a death occurs in hospital:

Contact us on 020 8777 4502 for advice and information.

Collect Cause of Death Certificate from the hospital, it is also best to contact the hospital first and check that all the paperwork is ready for collection, hospitals usually have a Bereavement Office to assist you.

Take the Cause of Death Certificate to the Registrar’s Office for the area in which the death took place. Please see our links page for details of your local Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

The Registrar will then issue a Green Form that should then be given to us.

Notes:

If a Coroner is involved a different procedure is followed, this will be explained to you.

If a death occurs at home and is referred to the Coroner then the Coroner’s Office will arrange for a funeral director (under a separate contract) to remove the deceased to the Coroner’s mortuary. The family can use any funeral director of their choice to carry out the funeral.

Please DO NOT wait for a DEATH CERTIFICATE to be issued before contacting us.

The registration of the death is the formal record of the death. This is done by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and should be done in the district where the death took place. For example, if a death occurs at the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough then the death has to be registered in Bromley. To give another example, a death occurring at Croydon University Hospital (Mayday) has to be registered at Mint Walk in Croydon. Please refer to our links page here for details of the local offices.

A death should be registered within 5 working days but registration can be delayed for another 9 days if the Registrar is told that a medical certificate has been issued. If the death has been referred to the Coroner then you cannot register the death until the Coroner’s investigations are finalised. The Coroner’s officer will inform you where and when to register the death.

It is a criminal offence not to register a death.

The death should be registered by one of the following (in order of priority)

  • A relative who was present at the death.
  • A relative present during the person’s last illness living in the district where the death took place.
  • Anyone else present at the death.
  • An owner or occupier of the building where the death took place and who was aware of the death.
  • The person arranging the funeral (but NOT the funeral director).

You cannot delegate responsibility for registering the death to anyone else.

You must take with you the medical certificate of death (issued by the doctor) and, if possible, you should also take the person’s NHS medical card, National Insurance Number, Birth Certificate and Marriage Certificate. The Registrar will want from you the following information:

  • Date and place of death.
  • The full name of the person (including maiden name).
  • Their last address.
  • The person’s date and place of birth.
  • The person’s last occupation.
  • In the case of a woman who was married or widowed, the full name and occupation of her husband.
  • If the deceased was married at the date of his/her death, the date of birth of the surviving spouse.

When you have registered the death, the Registrar will give you a green certificate (for which there is no charge) to give to us. This allows either a burial or cremation to go ahead. Occasionally, a Registrar may be able to issue a certificate for burial only (but never a cremation only) where no one has been able to register the death.

The Registrar will also give you a form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions to allow them to deal with the person’s pension and other benefits.

However, if the Coroner is involved then no green form is issued for a cremation (we receive a Form 6 direct from the Coroner’s officer) but a green form is issued if a burial is required (except if an inquest is involved when a white burial order is issued direct to us by the Coroner’s officer.)

The Registrar will issue you with a death certificate which is a copy of the entry made by the Registrar in the death register. The certificate is needed to deal with money or property left by the person who has died, including dealing with the will. You may need several copies of the certificate and there will be a charge for this.

The important point is that you do NOT have to register a death BEFORE commencing arranging a funeral. Contact us here or by phone on 020 8777 4502 and we will guide you through any funeral arrangements.

How many of the deaths which occur in Great Britain each year result in cremation?

Cremation has become the preferred method of disposal in Great Britain. Approximately 70% of all recorded deaths are now followed by cremation.

Are there any religious groups which forbid cremation to their members?

All Christian denominations, including the Roman Catholic Church, allow cremation. Cremation is also accepted to Sikhs, Hindus, Parsecs and Buddhists, but it is forbidden by Orthodox Jews and Muslims.

Is cremation more expensive than burial?

Generally the cost of burial is much higher than the fee charged for cremation. Cremation usually necessitates the production of medical certificates for which fees are payable to the doctors concerned. These certificates are not required when the death has been referred to investigation by a Coroner (Procurator in Scotland), or when burial is required, although in this case, in addition to the charges for interment, a number of other fees for grave purchase, memorials and grave maintenance may be incurred.

What service arrangements are available at the crematorium?

A full service may be conducted at the crematorium within the time allowed for each funeral. Alternatively, a service may take place in any separate place of worship followed by a brief committal ceremony at the crematorium. Families can arrange for their particular Minister to conduct the services or when required funeral directors may secure the services of a suitable Minister on behalf of the family.

Is it necessary for the cremation to be associated with a religious ceremony?

The deceased’s family can make any service arrangements which they consider to be appropriate. Secular services can be conducted at the crematorium or, if required, no ceremony need take place. Memorial services can be conducted separately from the cremation ceremony in local places of worship by arrangement with the Minister concerned.

How is a cremation arranged?

A number of arrangements need to be made following a death. The responsibility falls on the Executor or the nearest surviving relative who may wish to approach a professional funeral director who will undertake some of the various tasks on their behalf. The funeral director will need to discuss with the family their requirements concerning the service arrangements and will assist in completing the necessary statutory and non-statutory forms. The funeral director will make the practical arrangements for the collection of the body and will obtain the necessary Medical Certificates. It will be necessary to register the death and information will be provided by the funeral director to assist in completing that duty.

Do relatives need to decide at this stage about the disposal of cremated remains?

The funeral director will discuss with relatives the alternative arrangements which may be adopted for the disposal of cremated remains. It is likely that a form of authority will be required to be signed advising the crematorium of the wishes of the family. If they are undecided it will be possible for the cremated remains to be retained, either at the crematorium or at the funeral director’s premises, pending a decision.

What are the normal options for disposal of cremated remains?

All crematoria provide a Garden of Remembrance where cremated remains can be dispersed. Some crematoria provide niches where containers may be placed for limited periods. Cremated remains can be removed from the crematorium in a suitable container for disposal elsewhere. This may include interment in a grave in a cemetery or churchyard, dispersal at another crematorium or disposal privately in a particular area selected by the family. Suitable permission should be obtained from the appropriate authority in these cases.

What is the Garden of Remembrance and what facilities may be provided there?

The Garden of Remembrance consists of special areas, often adjacent to the crematorium, set aside for the disposal of cremated remains. They are used continually for this purpose and as a result it may not be possible or appropriate to mark or identify the exact location of individually cremated remains. The Gardens are normally arranged to provide a focal point for visitors and may include a variety of memorial facilities.

What memorial facilities are available at the crematorium?

All crematoria have some form of memorial facility. The most usual form of permanent memorial is the Book of Remembrance. This book is usually displayed in a special memorial chapel and entries are available for viewing either automatically on the anniversary of the date of death or on request. Some crematoria provide a wall or kerb mounted plaques in stone or metal although these are normally purchased for a limited time only. Roses, trees and shrubs may be dedicated at some crematoria for periods which may be extended by agreement. Donations are often accepted for the provision of items to be used at the crematorium or for the embellishment of the buildings or grounds. The funeral director should be aware of the memorial options available but direct enquiries to the crematorium Registrar will ensure that full details are provided together with a scale of charges.

What is the procedure followed at the crematorium on the day of the funeral?

The mourners will normally gather at the crematorium in the waiting room or close to the entrance of the chapel a few minutes before the appointed time of the funeral service. It is not usual for the ceremony to commence before the publicised time. When the principal mourners are ready to proceed, the coffin will be placed on the catafalque and mourners will proceed. At the moment during the service when committal of the body takes place the coffin may be obscured from view by curtains or withdrawn from the chapel. At the end of the service the mourners exit the chapel and may then inspect the floral tributes.

What happens to the coffin after the committal?

The coffin is withdrawn into the committal room where the nameplate is carefully checked by crematorium staff to ensure the correct identity. An identity card will then accompany the coffin and the resultant remains until their final disposal or removal from the crematorium.

Can relatives witness the committal of the coffin to the cremator?

The reception of the coffin in the committal room and its introduction into a cremator can be witnessed by arrangement with the crematorium Registrar. It is preferable to advise the funeral director of these arrangements as early as possible when making the funeral arrangements.

Is the cremation of a body governed by a code of ethics and working practices?

Cremation Authorities who are members of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities are required to operate strictly in accordance with a Code of Cremation Practice. This Code, which provides the ethical standard of cremation practice in Great Britain, is often displayed in the public areas of the building.

How soon after the service will the cremation take place?

The cremation will usually be commenced shortly after the service. The Code of Cremation Practice used to specify that the cremation is always completed on the same day as the service and this is usually the case. Some crematoria, for environmental reasons delay the cremation for up to 48hours. Croydon Crematorium is permitted to delay the actual cremation.

Is the coffin cremated with the body?

The Code requires that the coffin be placed in a cremator in exactly the same condition as that in which it was received at the crematorium. Crematorium regulations require that the coffin and all its fittings and furnishings be made from materials suitable for cremation. The Environment Protection Act 1990 has placed a new responsibility on Cremation Authorities to ensure that the process is completed under controlled conditions which will minimise the impact on the environment. In these circumstances it will be necessary for any items included in the coffin for presentation or viewing purposes to be removed by the funeral director before the coffin is conveyed to the crematorium. It will not be possible for any floral tributes to be included with the coffin for cremation.

Should items of jewellery be left on the body for cremation?

It is preferable that all items of jewellery are removed from the body before the coffin is conveyed to the crematorium. The funeral director should ascertain your wishes in respect of this matter when the funeral arrangements are being discussed. It will not be possible to recover any item of jewellery after the coffin has been received at the crematorium.

Can more than one body be cremated in a cremator at the same time?

The Code insists that each cremation is carried out separately. Exceptions may be made for instance in the case of a mother and baby or twin children providing that the next of kin has made a specific request in this regard.

What happens to the cremated remains after cremation?

At the conclusion of a cremation the cremated remains are removed in their entirety and conveyed to the treatment area in a special container. Ferrous metals used in the construction of the coffin or metal used in medical implants are extracted and retained for separate disposal. Non-ferrous metals which may include an unrecognisable element or precious metal will not be salvaged for any purpose and will be disposed of in accordance with the requirement of the Code of Cremation Practice and invariably this will be by burial in the crematorium grounds.

What procedures are followed to ensure that cremated remains are kept separate?

A cremator can only physically accept one coffin at a time and all remains are removed before the unit can be used again. The identity card, referred to previously, accompanies the coffin and cremated remains throughout the process until final disposal. The Code of ethics and practical necessity are complementary and combine to ensure that the separation of cremated remains is achieved.

How are cremated remains treated at the crematorium?

Cremated remains are removed from the cremator only when no further reduction is possible. The remains are withdrawn into a cooling area and finally into a special container for transfer to a purpose made unit which, after removal of ferrous metals, will reduce the residue to a fine consistency suitable for storage and eventual disposal. The remains are enclosed in a suitable and carefully identified container to await dispersal or collection.

What quantity of remains will there be following a cremation?

The cremation of an adult will normally result in the presentation of cremated remains weighing between 2 and 4kg. In the case of an infant it may not be possible to guarantee that any remains will be collectable. This is due to the cartilaginous nature of the bone structure.

What happens to the cremated remains strewn on the ground?

The cremated remains, which have assumed a granular form, are normally distributed over a wide area of ground. Chemical reactions resulting from exposure to the elements quickly break down the remains so that within a few days little trace of them can be observed. Some crematoria follow the practice of dressing the area where cremated remains have been dispersed, with a suitable mixture of sand and loam.

Can cremated remains be interred and their position marked with a memorial?

The Gardens of Remembrance attached to a crematorium do not provide for an erection of permanent memorials. Cremated remains interred in Gardens of Remembrance are not normally contained in a casket or a container of any kind. If it is required to inter cremated remains in a grave with traditional facilities for memorialisation, suitable enquiries should be made to the Registrar responsible for the selected cemetery.

Can cremated remains be retained by the family pending final disposal?

The applicant for cremation may collect and retain the cremated remains if required. Cremated remains can be retained at the crematorium for a limited period although a charge may be made for this facility.

What arrangements can be made to ensure that cremation is the selected method of disposal following death?

Clear instructions in writing should be given to the person who will be responsible for making the funeral arrangements. Such instructions are not binding in law and it will therefore be necessary to ensure that the person instructed is someone who is likely to carry out the wishes of the deceased. The final decision will rest on the executors.

Can more information be obtained concerning cremation and if required can a crematorium be visited by members of the public?

This may be discussed in more detail with the Registrar of the local crematorium. The Registrar will be pleased to answer further questions and make arrangements for any member of the public to be accompanied on a visit to the crematorium.

Issued from the Office of the Secretary of the Federation of British Cremation Authorities

Most people at some time will arrange a funeral or will assist in the arrangement. Important decisions will need to be made. The purpose of this leaflet is to provide information and suggestions that can help you make these decisions wisely and with more confidence. The funeral is a ceremony of proven worth and value for those who mourn. It provides an opportunity for the relatives and others who share in the loss to express their love, respect and grief and enables us to face openly and realistically the many problems and questions that death presents. Through the funeral bereaved relatives, friends and colleagues take that first step toward adjustment to their loss.

Many people find themselves bewildered and perplexed when face to face with bereavement, particularly when the loss of a loved one is sudden and unexpected. Questions without immediate answers quickly fill the mind: feelings of panic often cause confusion.

This carefully chiselled leaflet is designed to help. It takes nothing for granted. It offers answers that to some may be obvious, but to many may be new. In a society that often seems to shun the reality of death this guide is offered for support and information.

What should I do when someone dies?

When death occurs, call your Minister and a funeral director, who is ’on call’ 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The funeral director will contact a Minister on your behalf, if you wish.

Who makes the funeral arrangement?

The funeral arrangements can be made at the funeral directors office or at the family home. If a church is chosen for the place for the service, be assured that the funeral director is familiar with the rites and customs of all denominations. After ascertaining the family’s wishes regarding the funeral, contact will be made with the Minister about the service and the necessary arrangements for the burial or cremation.

Should we hold a funeral service?

A funeral acknowledges that death has occurred and also that a life has been lived. For Christian people there is the hope of eternity, both for the bereaved and the deceased, which is expressed through the prayers, scripture and music. The giving of spiritual comfort can be of great help at a time of death.

Should a funeral service be left as a private event?

It is not usual, but of course possible. However, while you remember your loved one it is likely that others will remember as well. Death touches and effects relatives, friends and others in a variety of ways. The funeral can provide everyone with an opportunity to acknowledge and to respond to the change that death has brought about. Experience indicates this will not be accomplished by getting the funeral over as fast, or as quietly, as possible.

Can a funeral service help me?

The Minister can give understanding support to those who mourn and help you in preparing the service. Talking together at this time may enable you to accept the reality of what has happened. This should make the service personal to you and your family. The fact of death will not be avoided but placed in the wider perspective of eternal life.

Can children attend a funeral service?

This is a question which is often asked. Children of any age can certainly attend funeral services but the child must be prepared so they know what to expect. Time must be given to answer their questions both before and after the funeral. It is most important that the child is asked whether they want to attend.

What type of clothing is usually worn to a funeral service?

Most funerals are dignified occasions with an element of formality. This may guide your choice of what to wear.

Who issues a death certificate?

The Registrar of Births and Deaths. Your funeral director, doctor, hospital authority or Coroner’s officer can tell you what to do and where to go if death occurs.

What is a Coroner?

A Coroner investigates sudden or unexplained death and every country has to appoint one or more Coroners who are experienced doctors or lawyers. A death occurring in these circumstances is usually reported to the Coroner by the police or by a doctor. Sometimes this is done by the Registrar. If the death is not due to natural causes the Coroner is obliged by law to hold an inquest.

What about embalming?

The body must be embalmed for transporting to most countries and for long distances in the UK. In the absence of specific instructions on the part of the family most funeral homes will embalm. If viewing is requested or a long period of time before burial or cremation is involved it is usually required by the home.

What does the average funeral cost?

A quoted average can be misleading and does not give all the answers. You should ask the funeral directors about the burial and cremation charges and receive an explanation of their services. Members of the National Association of Funeral Directors, for example, are obliged by their code of practice to have price lists available and to give written estimates. Most important, a family may select the funeral that suits their wishes and circumstances.

How can I obtain a simple funeral service?

Any member of the National Association of Funeral Directors, for example, provides funerals to meet the wishes and circumstances of all. Most important, the family may select their own funeral price. All members of the Association are bound by their code of practice to offer a simple funeral.

Can a family arrange a burial or cremation directly with the cemetery or crematorium?

It is possible but arrangements for the funeral are usually made by the funeral director, not by the family, to save unnecessary stress.

Is there a difference in cost between burial and cremation?

The funeral director’s charges for a cremation are usually similar to those for burial, but the cost of purchasing a grave and a memorial tends to make the total cost of burial more expensive than cremation.

How much do cemetery plots cost?

There is a great variation in the prices of graves from one area to another. Cemeteries are operated by private and public companies, some will be operated by churches or local authorities as a service to their people and hence there could be a large difference in rates. There will be extra charges for opening and closing graves. Some cemeteries have regulations which govern the size of the headstones or ground level makers. Your funeral director will have the costs for the various cemeteries in the local area and can give you advice.

What are the funeral costs for a stillborn or newly born baby?

The health authority may offer to arrange a burial or cremation, free of charge, for every stillborn baby, whether born in a hospital or at home. You should discuss the funeral arrangements with the hospital staff. If you accept the offer, the baby will be cremated or buried at a simple ceremony. The parents can, if they wish, arrange the funeral themselves with the local funeral director to meet their own beliefs, the charges will then depend on the service required. Cemetery and cremation fees, if applicable will be over and above whatever charges the funeral director may make. Fees and charges are often reduced and sometimes waived but vary with locality. The majority of churches do not make a charge for the funeral of a child under 12 months. Estimates of the costs are given by members of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Can funeral arrangements be made in advance?

Yes. This facility has been offered by funeral directors for many years. Instructions, as given to the funeral directors, are filed with the funeral director until required. Most families will also prepay the funds necessary to carry out the terms of the agreement. It must be remembered that funds placed in a pre-payment organisation to arrange for goods and services in advance is needed, will pay no interest and in most cases will not be refunded in full. It is a good idea to make your wishes known to your family but do not make unreasonable requests that will be difficult for them to meet.

Who can claim help from the social security system?

You may get help if you have insufficient money to pay for a funeral you are responsible for arranging and you or your partner are claiming any of the following:

  • Income support
  • Housing benefit
  • Council tax benefit
  • Family credit
  • Disability working allowance

The benefit Agency of the Department of Social Security will give further information regarding conditions attached to claims and payments. Payments have to be paid back to the social fund from any estate of the person who died.

Can a family add to the department of social security allowance from the social fund for funerals?

Yes. Family and friends may pay for items which the applicant cannot pay from the social fund.

Can a funeral director arrange for a funeral at a distance?

Yes. All arrangements can be made for transporting and preparation through your local funeral director.

What procedure should be followed if a death occurs whilst away from home?

Contact your home town funeral director immediately. Your home town funeral director will assume responsibility for the return of the deceased person and may engage the services of the funeral director in the place of death who will act as an agent. Usually arrangements made in this manner will be less costly to the family involved.

Does the deceased have to be accompanied or have an escort when moved to a distant location?

No.

Do cemeteries and crematoria have chapels for services?

Most of them do. Many families may prefer to use their local church for the main part of the service followed by burial or cremation.

If a family has no church affiliation who will officiate at the service?

The funeral director would normally use your local Minister but if you require a non-religious service, a secular celebrant can be obtained.

Is there a fee for the Minister or for the use of the church?

Yes. This is included in the total cost.

Can a Roman Catholic be cremated?

Yes. Catholics are encouraged to take part in a funeral mass before the deceased is cremated.

What is done with the cremated remains?

Cremated remains may be left with the crematorium for scattering or burial or may be returned to the next of kin. However, many families choose to have the remains buried by suitable prayers, in a family plot or specially designated sections of a cemetery or churchyard.

Is it necessary to have a coffin for cremation?

Yes. Most authorities require that the body must be placed in a combustible coffin which is cremated. Usually the same type of coffin is used for the cremation as for burial.

Does anyone have to witness the cremation?

A witness is not necessary but can be arranged if requested.

How can I express sympathy?

  • Flowers: The presence of flowers is helpful during the funeral when the sorrows of one become the sorrows of all. The memory of flowers often remains for days or even weeks with the family. They also add something to the service itself. The sending of flowers is a way of expressing sympathy. Some families give friends a choice of sending flowers or making a donation to a charity.
  • Memorial donations: To some families, the idea of a memorial contribution to a specific cause or charity, is as much appreciated as flowers. Remember requests can be misinterpreted as dictating to friends the manner in which they should express their sympathy. Your funeral director can assist you with the wording to be used in the newspaper notice which will express your preferences with tact.
  • Mass cards: The offering of prayers for the soul of someone who has died is perhaps the most valued expression of sympathy to a Roman Catholic or some Anglican families. A card indicating that a mass for the dead has been arranged is available through any Catholic church.

What is a memorial service?

A service conducted by a Minister or a lay person in a church or chapel where the deceased person’s body is not present. The family is usually present at this service which is customarily held sometime after the funeral. Some churches and crematoria hold an annual memorial service.

How can I give my body for medical research?

Those considering a donation of their body to medical school should contact the specific school and ask for a Bequeathal Form and should understand the requirements of the school and what costs may be involved. Consideration should also be given to what effects the donation may have upon the family survivors. The professor of the department of anatomy reserves the right to refuse the offer of a Bequeathal due to circumstances at the time of death. There is no guarantee of acceptance of any body at any time. Relatives who desire to reclaim the body for private burial or cremation may do so by making a written request on the Bequeathal Form at the time of death. In this case all expenses concerned with the burial or cremation must be borne by the estate of the deceased. Usually, this is approximately 18 months to 3 years following receipt of the body by the university (it should be noted that not all universities allow the body to be reclaimed for private burial or cremation).

Can I donate kidneys, etc.?

As a result of the advance in medical transplant knowledge and technique it is now possible for more and more people to be restored to health. There is continuing need for organ donors and as most organs must be removed within eight hours there should be no delay. It is imperative that your family is aware of your wishes in this matter.

Some concluding thoughts

It should be clear from reading this leaflet that there is no one funeral that is ’right or wrong’. There are many options available to personalise the funeral and make it serve the specific needs of those involved. People discussing their own funerals are often clear about what they want and sometimes these arrangements can cause difficulty for the survivors. A funeral is a unique event, has value and is not purely an ordeal to be endured. The funeral of every person is important. A well conducted funeral, with its attendant ceremony, not only recognises that a death has occurred but also that a life has been lived.

Produced by The Churches’ Group on funeral services at cemeteries and crematoria.

This guide is for information purpose only and is not an exhaustive explanation of Coroner’s law.

Who are Coroners?

Coroners are usually lawyers but in some cases they may be doctors. Coroners are independent judicial officers - this means that no-one else can tell them or direct them as to what they should do but they must follow the laws and regulations which apply. Each Coroner has to have a deputy and between them they have to be available at all times. Coroners are helped by their officers, who receive the reports of deaths and make enquiries on behalf of the Coroner. Some officers are full time but in quieter parts of the country they are part time and often work as policemen or policewomen the rest of the time. The cost of the Coroner service is met by local taxation.

What does the Coroner do?

A Coroner enquires into those deaths reported to them. It is their duty to find out the medical cause of the death, if it is not known, and to enquire about the cause of it if it was due to violence or was otherwise unnatural.

Are all deaths reported to the Coroner?

No. In most cases the deceased’s own doctor, or a hospital doctor who has been treating him or her, is able to give a cause of death.

When is a death reported to the Coroner?

There are a number of occasions when a death will be reported to the Coroner e.g. when no doctor has treated the deceased during his or her illness or when the death was sudden or unexpected or unnatural.

How are deaths reported?

  • Deaths are usually reported to the Coroner by the police or by the doctor called to the death if it is sudden, but a doctor will also report a patient’s death if unexpected. In other cases, the local Registrar of Deaths may make the report.
  • Whenever the death has been reported to the Coroner the Registrar must wait for the Coroner to finish his or her enquiries before the death can be registered. These enquiries may take time, so it is always best to contact the Coroner’s office before any funeral arrangements are made.

What will the Coroner do?

  • The Coroner may decide that death was quite natural and that there is a doctor who can sign a form saying so. In this case the Coroner will advise the Registrar.
  • The Coroner may ask a pathologist to examine the body. If so, the examination must be done as soon as possible. The Coroner or his staff will, unless it is impracticable or cause undue delay, give notice of the arrangements to, amongst others, the usual doctor of the deceased, and any relative who may have notified the Coroner of his or her wish to be medically represented at the examination. If the examination shows the death to have been a natural one, there may be no need for an inquest and the Coroner will send a form to the Registrar of deaths so that the death can be registered by the relatives and a certificate of burial issued by the Registrar. If the person is to be cremated, the certificate may be issued by the Coroner.

If the death is not due to a natural cause?

The Coroner will hold an inquest.

Will the inquest decide who is to blame?

No. An inquest is not a trial. It is a limited inquiry into the facts surrounding a death. It is not the job of the Coroner to blame anyone for the death, as a trial would do.

What is the purpose of an inquest?

The inquest is an inquiry to find out who has died, and how, when and where they died, together with information needed by the Registrar of Deaths, so that the death can be registered.

What happens if somebody has been charged with causing the death ?

Where a person has been charged with causing someone’s death, e.g. by murder or manslaughter, the inquest is adjourned until the person’s trial is over. Before adjourning, the Coroner finds out who the deceased was and how he or she died. The Coroner then sends a form to the Registrar of Deaths to allow the death to be registered. When the trial is over, the Coroner will not normally resume the inquest.

What about other court proceedings?

Any other court proceedings will normally follow the inquest. When all the facts about the cause of death are known, then the person may be brought before another court, or a claim for damages made. The inquest may be of help to the family of the deceased in finding out what happened. The information obtained may also help to avoid similar accidents in the future.

Is there always a jury at the inquest?

No, most inquests are held without a jury. There are particular reasons when a jury will be called, including:

  • if the death occurred in prison or in police custody or
  • if the death resulted from an incident at work.

In every inquest held with a jury, it is the jury, and not the Coroner, which makes the final decision (this is called the returning verdict). Jurors are paid expenses and some money towards loss of earnings, if any. They are not expected to view the body, although in some cases they may have to look at unpleasant photographs.

Must a witness attend court?

Yes. In many cases the evidence of a witness may be vital in preventing injustice. A witness may either be asked to attend the inquest or receive a formal summons to do so.

Who decides which witness to call?

The Coroner decides who to ask and the order in which they give evidence. Anyone who can help should tell the Coroner or his officer who will then see what relevance and help the evidence may be.

Who can ask a witness questions?

Anyone who has what is called "a proper interest" (see next question) may question a witness at the inquest. He or she can get a lawyer to ask questions or they can ask questions themselves. Questions must be sensible and relevant. This is something the Coroner will decide. There are no speeches.

Who is a "properly interested person"?

  • A parent, spouse, child and anyone acting for the deceased.
  • Anyone who gains from a life insurance policy of the deceased.
  • Any insurer having issued such a policy.
  • Anyone whose actions the Coroner believes may have contributed to the death, accidentally or otherwise the chief officer of police (who may only ask witnesses questions through a lawyer).
  • Any person appointed by the government department to attend the inquest.
  • Anyone else who the Coroner may decide also has a proper interest.

If you ask, the Coroner or his officer will advise you whether you have a proper interest.

Is legal aid available?

Legal aid is not available to cover representation at the inquest. However, legal advice under the "green form" scheme may be obtained by those whose means are within the qualifying limits.

Can future deaths be prevented?

Sometimes the inquest will show that something needs to be done to prevent a recurrence. The Coroner can draw attention to this publicly and will write to someone in authority about it, for example the council or a government department.

Will the inquest be reported in the papers?

All inquests must be held in public and someone from the press is usually present in court. Whether they report the case is a matter for them. At the same time the Coroner knows that every death is a personal tragedy and tries to treat each one sympathetically. The inquest tries to get at the truth, and can often help to stop the spread of untrue stories about the death. Suicide notes and personal letters will not be read out unless they have to be, but although every attempt is made to try to avoid any upset to people’s private lives, sometimes, in the interest of justice, it is unavoidable.

Can the funeral be held before the inquest is finished?

Yes. If an inquest is to be held, the Coroner will normally allow burial or cremation of the body once the examination of the body has finished. However, delay can arise if someone has been charged in connection with the death.

Can a death certificate be given before the inquest is finished?

Not normally. However, when the inquest has been adjourned after someone has been charged with causing the death, a certificate can be issued. The Coroner may provide an interim certificate of the fact of death so as to assist the personal representatives in looking after the estate.

Is the Coroner concerned with organ transplants?

If the death has been referred to the Coroner, the Coroner must be asked to agree to the removal of the organ, since the removal could affect some important evidence. Decisions can usually be made quickly.

Can a report of the inquest be obtained?

When the inquest has been completed a person who has a proper interest in the inquiry may apply to see the notes written by the Coroner after the inquest, or may have a copy of the notes on payment of a fee. In some cases there may be a tape-recording, or transcript, of the hearing.

Does the Coroner have any function in relation to a death?

The Coroner must be notified in every case when a body is to be taken out of England and Wales (whether or not there has been an inquest), and four clear days are allowed for his or her reply, unless written permission is obtained sooner. There is no fee for this. When a body has been brought into England and Wales from another country the Coroner may be able to give some help in finding the cause of death and may be required to hold an inquest.

Where can I get more information about the Coroner’s proceedings?

From your local Coroner’s office. This is usually listed in the telephone directory. Alternatively, your local police or the citizen’s advice bureau will be able to tell you where the office is situated.

Note:

If the death occurs at home and is referred to the Coroner then the Coroner’s officer will arrange for a Funeral Director (under separate contract) to remove the deceased to the Coroner’s mortuary. The family can use any Funeral Director of their choice to carry out the funeral.

Information supplied by the Home Office guide.



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