Courts and Tribunals Tasmania

Coronial Division

Procedures

 

Inquests

An inquest (formal hearing) must be held where:

  1. the coroner suspects homicide; or
  2. the deceased was immediately before death a person held in care or a person held in custody; or
  3. the identity of the deceased is not known; or
  4. the deceased died whilst escaping or attempting to escape from prison, a detention centre, a secure mental health unit, police custody or the custody of a person who had custody under an order of a court for the purposes of taking that person to or from a court; or
  5. the death occurred in the process of police officer, correctional officer, authorised officer or prescribed person, within the meaning of section 31 of the Criminal Justice (Mental Impairment) Act 1999, attempting to detain a person; or
  6. the deceased died at, or as a result of an accident or injury that occurred at, his or her place of work and the coroner is not satisfied that the death was due to natural causes; or
  7. the death occurred in such a place or in such circumstances that require an inquest under any other Act; or
  8. the Attorney-General directs; or
  9. the Chief Magistrate directs.

 Witnesses may be called and questioned on oath, or the Coroner may receive documentary evidence only.

Your rights (if any) to see documents or to obtain copy documents (for a fee), to attend an inquest, to be represented by a lawyer will be explained if you contact a Coroners Officer before the day of inquest. This is necessary to enable sufficient time to comply with any requests where appropriate.

Where Is The Deceased Taken?

Deceased persons are normally taken to the  mortuary at the Royal Hobart Hospital or Launceston General Hospital. The Coroners Office can assist in advising where the deceased person is currently located. They will also advise as to when the deceased person may be released for the purpose of a funeral service.

Contact With Coroners

If there are any questions you have concerning the death of your loved one, do not hesitate to contact the Coroners Office.

The Coroner and coronial staff may not be able to speculate about the cause of death until enquires have been completed.

Identification

In most cases the attending police officer and/or the Mortuary Ambulance Officer will have a relative or friend identify the deceased to them at the place of death.

In some instances it will be necessary for a deceased person to be identified at the Mortuary and anyone who knew the deceased well, can confirm the identity for the Coroner. If you are a close relative and the only person who can do so, you may wish to be accompanied by a friend.

Where it is necessary for the deceased to be identified at the Mortuary the officers concerned will endeavour to minimise the unsettling effects as much as possible. Viewing usually takes place through a glass panel showing only as much as is necessary to ensure identification.

A suitable time and place is set for identification by arrangement or at the request of the Coroners Office. It is helpful if the identifying person attends with details of the deceased noted down, such as, full name and address, date of birth, place of birth, marital status, number and sex of any children and parents names.

Autopsy & Organ Retention

An autopsy is an external/internal examination of body organs conducted to establish the cause of death.

It is normal for the pathologist to retain blood and or tissue for examination. However, in some cases whole organs are retained for further examination to determine or confirm the cause of death. This can take several weeks to complete and could affect funeral arrangements. Any concerns you have in this area should be discussed with your Funeral Director, Coroners Officer or Grief Counsellor.

An autopsy will normally be ordered by the Coroner if a medical practitioner will not issue a medical certificate as to the cause of death.

Objection To Post Mortem

The senior next-of-kin may object in writing to an autopsy being performed. The objection must be made as soon as possible after death. If an objection is being considered telephone contact should be made with the Coroners Office immediately no matter what time of the day or night. Staff will be able to advise you of your rights and obligations in relation to this.

Investigation

In order to determine the circumstances and the cause of death, inquiries are made of all witnesses and any treating doctor, where appropriate.

The average time for an investigation can be 3-4 months but some matters can be twelve months or more. Delays can be due to witnesses overseas; awaiting expert witness reports; work load of investigating officers; annual leave; unable to locate witness; person has been charged with a criminal offence and the inquest is adjourned pending the Criminal Court hearing.

The Coroner records his finding at the conclusion of the investigation and/or inquest. A copy of the finding will be forwarded to the senior next-of-kin. If you have any further enquiry please contact your nearest Coroners Office.

Grief Counsellor

If you desire the assistance of a Grief Counsellor please make contact with your nearest Coroners Office and arrangements can be made.

Legal Advice Or Legal Aid

If you consider you need legal advice or indeed legal aid you should consult the telephone directory for assistance.

The following numbers may be of help:

The Law Society of Tasmania (03) 6236 3800;

Aboriginal Legal Aid (03) 6234 3955: and

The Legal Aid Commission (03) 6230 0900.

Death Certificate

Application of these certificates can be made at your nearest Service Tasmania Shop. Details of the shop closest to you and the application form can be found on the website or provided by telephoning 1300 135 513.

The Coroners Office may be able to assist if there is a problem obtaining a certificate.

Funeral Arrangements

The Coroners staff cannot recommend a funeral director. If you contact a funeral director with your instructions he will then liaise with the Coroners Office to see that your wishes are met as soon and as far as possible. Usually the body of the deceased person is released after one day but sometimes delays may be unavoidable. Sometimes the Coroner may prevent a cremation of a deceased person and require burial in case there is need for further investigation.

The Deceased's Possessions

If footwear or clothing are soiled, damaged or wet they will be disposed of immediately. A phone call to the Coroners Office or the Police Property Officer will explain what has happened to this clothing and whether other property may be collected or not.

Contact Details