How can I give information to the coroner?
In an investigation
If the coroner is holding an investigation, it is their duty to locate as much information as they can to enable them to make accurate findings.
If you have relevant information that will assist the coroner in the investigation process, please send it to the coroners’ office. You can write the information down in an affidavit or a statutory declaration (available on the Magistrates Court web site, under Forms) and send it to the coroners’ office. Please also send a letter that gives your contact details, states your relationship to the deceased person and explains why you think that the information is important to the investigation. If you are unsure about how to fill out the affidavit or statutory declaration form, the staff at the coroner’s court or the Magistrates Court can assist you.
You are also able to:
- provide a document explaining how the loss of the deceased person has affected you and your family
- provide the name and contact details of anyone that you think the coroner’s court should contact about the matter
- send any reports, documents or other evidence to the coroners’ office for the coroner to consider.
In an inquest
Families have an important role in an inquest. They can provide valuable information about the circumstances of the death or the deceased person’s medical history. They provide insight into who the deceased person was, giving the inquest another layer of meaning. Families and friends can be directly involved in inquests in a number of ways:
- by keeping in contact with the coroner’s court (to know what is happening)
- by sending information / suggested recommendations / prepared statements to the coroner
- by attending the inquest and watching the proceedings.
If you are the senior next of kin or if you are an interested person, you will have the opportunity to be more involved in the inquest process:
- You can have a lawyer speak for you at the inquest (and ask questions, cross-examine witnesses, tender evidence and make submissions).
- If you cannot hire a lawyer or do not want to, you can speak in court for yourself. You can also make an application before the inquest to have a person who is not a lawyer speak for you.
- There are often many matters to organise before an inquest. The coroner will usually have a case management conference before the inquest to talk about any issues that might come up at the inquest or that need to be organised beforehand. Families, lawyers and some professionals will be invited to come to the conference.
- You may want to have input into what issues should be raised at the inquest or which witnesses should be called. These matters will be discussed at a case management conference.
- Interested persons have the right to call witnesses to give evidence at inquests but the coroner has the final say on which witnesses will talk at the inquest.
- Only the coroner has the power to “summons” a witness to court, which is a legal order that means they have to attend or risk being arrested. Because only the coroner can use this power, if you want someone to give evidence it is better to ask the coroner to summons them than to call them yourself. To make this request to the coroner, write to the coroners’ office or raise the matter at a case management conference.
- You are welcome to call or write to the coroner’s court prior to the inquest to make any suggestions or to provide any information. If you do write to the court, please include your contact details, your relationship to the deceased person and why you think that the information is important to the investigation.
How to give oral evidence
Oral evidence is telling the coroner in court about what happened and answering questions, usually based on a written statement or affidavit.
For more information on the court process and what to expect if you are giving evidence, please go to A Guide for Families and Friends: The coroner’s court and me – I’m a witness at the inquest, what does this mean?.
You can find information on how to question a witness in court in the Tasmanian Coronial Practice Handbook, under Key Elements in the Process: Representing an interested person at an inquest.
How to give evidence in a statutory declaration or an affidavit
Under rule 19, the coroner has the power to accept evidence given by deposition or affidavit. It may be possible to give your evidence to the court by writing down what you wish to say in these documents, instead of by giving oral evidence in court. Coroners usually prefer oral evidence because it allows the person giving the evidence to be questioned, so that the details in their statement can be explored. A coroner may still allow evidence to be given in deposition or affidavit form if the evidence is not in dispute. If you want to give your evidence this way, please write a letter explaining why you wish to give your evidence in this way and discuss it with the coroners’ office staff.
How to tender a document in court
To “tender” a document is to present it in court so that the coroner can decide if it should be included in the official evidence (“admitted”). In court, the counsel assisting or coroner’s associate will tender the documents on the coronial record for the coroner to consider.
If you have a document that contains relevant information on a matter before the coroner, please post or email it to the coroner’s court before the inquest. Documents can include medical records, financial records, reports, guidelines, regulations or any other record. Sometimes parties may want to provide an expert report to the court that they have sourced and paid for themselves.
Depending on your role in the investigation, you might be able to tender the document yourself at the inquest instead of sending it to the court beforehand. If you are permitted to tender documents at the inquest, the best way to do this is to hand them to the counsel assisting or coroner’s associate and explain what they are and why they are important. The coroner will then decide if the document will be a part of the official evidence. It is always better to show the document to court staff some time before the inquest so that the coroner does not see the document for the first time in the middle of the inquest.
How to call a witness
Only interested persons can call witnesses to attend court. To find out if you are an interested person, please contact the coroner’s court.
To call a witness to attend court, you should write down the place, date and time when you want the witness to attend court and give this notice to the witness. The notice should be given to the witness in person, or left at their house. It is always best to hand the notice to the witness, or arrange for someone else to do this, if possible.
How to tender a physical exhibit
If you are an interested person, you can tender a physical exhibit (such as a photograph or a piece of clothing) in the same way as you would a document.
The counsel assisting the coroner or coroner’s associate will tender all of the physical exhibits on the coronial file and also any that have been kept at the police station. Interested persons are usually able to view these items before the inquest and can ask questions about them in court.