The loss of a loved one can be one of the most difficult things you have to deal with and this experience can be made even worse if you are faced with an inquest to investigate the cause of death.
How AvMA can help
Our self-help guides provide clear and straightforward explanations of some of the processes most commonly used by people investigating a claim. The following links will take you to the guides which are most commonly accessed by people going through the inquest process.
AvMA’s inquest leaflet: Provides essential information on a range of issues from what an inquest is, the process itself as well as some frequently asked questions.
The following guides might also be helpful:
- The Ministry of Justice guide to coroner services
- Serious Incident Reports (SIRS)
- Making a complaint about NHS or private healthcare
AvMA’s pro bono inquest service
Important information on our service during the COVID-19 situation
Given the uncertain circumstances surrounding the recent COVID-19 outbreak and the associated government restrictions we have reluctantly taken the view that we are unable to assist by attending inquests or hearings with clients while the current government restrictions are in force. Please be assured that we will continue to provide advice, support and assistance by phone and in writing.
Following government guidelines and advice, AvMA staff are working from home, we have access to our emails and any new client forms you submit. We are committed to providing our helpline and written services to the public at this difficult time. If you would like help with a forthcoming inquest, then please read our criteria for accessing AvMA inquest services and then, if appropriate, complete the inquest new client form.
For advice on any matters relating to possible failures in healthcare that did not result in death please complete a new client form.
Useful information on how inquests are being conducted during the COVID -19 pandemic.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone and our usual way of life, the court system including the coroner’s court has also been affected. The Chief Coroner, is responsible for giving the coronial system and the inquest process leadership and direction to help guide and manage the way those investigations (inquests) are carried out. In order to encourage coroners across the country to take the same approach and provide a consistent service the Chief Coroner issues guidance notes. Several guidance notes have been issued during the course of the pandemic, for more information see Guidance notes numbered 34 – 39.
Some of the key points from the guidance notes include:
- No physical hearings should take place unless it safe to do so. In any event social distancing should be observed. However it is not intended that this guidance should inhibit the use of physical courtrooms, providing they can be used in line with social distancing guidelines and as long as they can be accessed and used safely
- Inquest hearings should take place remotely where possible, these must be held in public and as such the coroner should conduct those hearings from court (not their homes)
- It is permissible to hold a partially remote hearing. A partially remote hearing is where the coroner is physically present in the courtroom but other participants in the proceedings (not the public or press) are accessing the proceedings remotely
- It is the Chief Coroner’s view that partially remote hearings should take place wherever possible if the technology allows and it is in the interests of justice and its use is consistent with the administration of justice
- It is permissible to use live video to hear evidence from witnesses and/or for participation by interested persons
- It is unlawful to livestream any proceedings from a coroner’s court
- Despite a relaxation in the ‘lock down’ restrictions including social distancing the Chief Coroner recognises that it will take some time before the courts can return to normal. The level of resources available varies across coroner areas, some coroner’s courts have more space to accommodate witnesses safely than others. Every senior coroner is expected to work closely with other relevant parties to make sure that a return to conducting more inquest hearings is done in a safe way. There is an expectation that coroners should now be moving towards routinely conducting hearings again.
In our experience, many coroners are sympathetic to families and other interested parties who are concerned about attending an inquest in person at this time, perhaps because they are aged 70 and over, have a specific chronic pre-existing condition, are clinically vulnerable or pregnant – see government guidelines for further details. If you fall into one of these categories, are involved in the inquest and the coroner is seeking to use the court room to hear all the evidence you can write to the coroner and request a partially remote hearing and that you give your evidence remotely or request an adjournment. If you do wish to make this request you may find this standard letter helpful.
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