Family members attending as witnesses
At many inquests, the Coroner will ask a member of the family to come and act as a witness. This will usually be the person who made the background statement shortly after their relative died. This means it is not always the next of kin who is asked to be the witness.
Who can attend?
Occasionally more than one family member may be asked, for example to give information about the last time they saw their relative. Other family members who are not giving evidence are also welcome to come and observe, provide support and ask questions.
Setting a date and time for inquest:
When we are setting a date for the inquest, an officer will call you to check whether you have any holidays or other commitments booked that you would like us to work around. You will then be sent a letter with the date and time of the inquest. Please fill in the reply slip and return it to the office. Occasionally, we may need to serve a formal witness summons, either in the post or personally delivered. Again, fill in the reply slip and send it back.
How to find us:
When attending the hearing, this page shows how to find us.
Sensitivity at the inquest:
We understand that some people find it quite difficult to speak about their loved one. The Coroner will be sensitive to this and will help and guide you through giving your evidence. As well as other family members, you may also bring people to support you, such as a friend, union rep, support worker or minister of religion.
Arrival at the inquest
Please arrive at least 10 minutes before the hearing is due to start.
There is no dress code but most people choose to dress reasonably smartly. You do not need to bring anything with you.
Being called to the witness stand:
When the time comes to give your evidence, the Coroner will call you to the witness stand. If you have mobility problems or are feeling very nervous and would prefer to give evidence from where you are sitting, we can arrange that. You will need to take an oath or affirmation that you will give true evidence. You can do this on the holy book of your choice or in a non-religious way.
Giving your evidence:
The Coroner will then take you through the statement that you made. Please don't worry if you don't remember exactly what you said at the time - it is by no means a memory test. You will have the chance to add, confirm or change anything you wish. The Coroner will then ask any questions that he has. At some inquests, there may be other people in court who are given the opportunity to ask questions. These will generally be professionals working for an organisation that had contact with your relative.
An inquest is a fact-finding inquiry; it does not deal with issues of liability or blame. This means that any questions you are asked will be straightforward and factual and will be posed in a respectful way.
In some circumstances, it is possible that if a witness answers a certain question honestly, they may incriminate themselves. This means that they will admit they have done something that is against the law. If a witness is asked this sort of question, the Coroner will advise that they do not need to answer it.
Leaving the inquest:
Once you have given your evidence, you will usually be free to go. Please ask the Coroner for permission before you leave as he may have extra questions. However, most relatives choose to stay to see the rest of the inquest and the conclusion.
If you have spent money on your travel to court or taken time off work and lost pay, you are entitled to claim it back.
You Can also obtain copies of the above from the court clerk when you are present.
Unfortunately, we can only pay travel expenses and loss of earnings for people that the Coroner has called to court as witnesses. When other family members choose to attend to observe or support, they are responsible for their own expenses.