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Role of the Coroner

The office of coroner is regulated by the Coroners and Justice Act 2009, Part I, and rules and regulations made under that Act. While coroners are appointed and financed by local authorities, they are judicial officers holding an independent office, rather than employees. In practice, coroners are responsible to the High Court and to the Chief Coroner.

A coroner normally has jurisdiction in relation to a death only if the body is lying within his area (in this case the City of London). It does not matter where the death occurred, but where the body now is. The coroner's inquest is a public hearing in open court, to which witnesses are called to give evidence about the death in question, or about treasure that has been found. No-one prosecutes or defends - instead the coroner inquires. He or she is in charge and, for example, decides which witnesses to call and question.

Some people – such as those who have an emotional or financial interest in the death – are allowed, as 'interested persons', not only to attend the hearing but also to take part in the inquiry by asking relevant questions of the witnesses either themselves or through a lawyer.

Inquests do not establish if anyone was at fault or to blame for deaths. Instead, they try to find out (and record) who the deceased was, how, when and where the deceased came by his or her death and the particulars needed for registration of the death. Matters of blame or fault can only be pursued in separate civil or criminal proceedings. The coroner may report the facts to an appropriate authority which may have power to prevent similar fatalities in future, but he or she cannot make recommendations or compel the authority to do anything.

Until 1926 a coroner always sat with a jury, but now this only happens in rare cases. As a coroner's inquest depends on the detail and complexity of the evidence, it may last as little as half an hour or as much as several days. In principle, coroners’ inquests are open to the public, and, subject to space being available, anyone may attend. Witnesses who are summoned must attend.

In addition to holding inquests into certain kinds of deaths, a coroner holds inquests into treasure that is found in his or her area. Medieval law held treasure trove to be gold or silver that had been hidden with a view to retrieval later. The Treasure Act 1996 widened this to include other categories such as coins and other objects. All treasure found in the City or in Southwark belongs by law to the City of London rather than to the Crown.

Casualty Bureau

In the event of a major incident a casualty bureau telephone number will be released, by the police, through the national media.

Please do not call the Department of Markets and Consumer Protection contact telephone numbers given in the section on the St Pancras Mortuary on these web pages.

The Casualty Bureau is not intended as a general information bureau. It is set up specifically to deal with missing persons, survivors, evacuees and witnesses involved in an incident. The Casualty Bureau is designed to receive and collate information not give it out. However, when casualties or survivors are identified, the enquirer is told as soon as possible following a call.