An inquest is a fact-finding hearing designed to answer four questions:
A coroner must hold an inquest if a person’s cause of death remains unknown after the initial post-mortem examination and subsequent tests, or if there is cause for the coroner to suspect that a person died a violent or unnatural death, or died in prison.
An inquest receives evidence from witnesses and it is from this evidence that answers are sought for the four questions above. On hearing the evidence, a verdict is then reached on how a person died.
Most inquests are held without a jury and in those cases the coroner will reach a verdict based on the evidence presented. Where a jury is required, such as when a death occurs in prison or police custody or as a result of an accident at work, the coroner decides on matters of law and procedure and the jury decides the facts of the case and reaches a verdict.
An inquest does not establish any matter of liability or blame.
Having legal representation before and at an inquest means there is a qualified legal professional who can give informed and objective advice to help guide you through the process and explain what is happening.
As well as the inquest itself, sometimes the coroner may hold one or more hearings before the inquest, known as pre-inquest hearings, where the scope of the inquest and any matters of concern, such as the arrangements for the hearing, can be considered.
If there is a possible compensation claim arising out of the death, having legal representation at the inquest is extremely valuable. Although the inquest will not address the issue of who was to blame for the death, we are at least able to ask questions and obtain information that would not otherwise be disclosed which could be helpful to the claim.
Having a legal professional represent you can also help with challenging procedural decisions made by a coroner and can assist if you wish to overturn a verdict and obtain a fresh inquest hearing because of inadequate inquiry by the coroner. At Harding Evans we have extensive experience in dealing with inquests and can provide you with the quality legal support you need.
Legal Aid funding for legal representation during an inquest is only available in very exceptional circumstances. However, other possible sources of funding do exist, including the use of pre-existing legal expenses insurance or a Conditional Fee Agreement, neither of which would require you to pay us for the work that we carry out. We will discuss your funding options in detail during our initial meeting.
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