General Information About The Coroner's Service
What is a Coroner?
Coroners are judicial office holders – this means that no-one else can tell them or direct them as to what they should do, but they must follow the laws and regulations which apply.
Coroners are usually lawyers and will be appointed by the Local Authority with approval from the Chief Coroner and Lord Chancellor.
Each Coroner Area will have a Senior Coroner. In large areas, the Senior Coroner may be supported by an Area Coroner as well as by a team of Assistant Coroners. Area Coroners and Assistant Coroners are also appointed by the Local Authority and approved by the Chief Coroner and Lord Chancellor. They are qualified in the same way and have the same powers as the Coroner when dealing with deaths and inquests.
What does a Coroner do?
Each Senior Coroner is responsible for a geographical area. The South Wales Central Area represents the following Local Authorities: Bridgend County Borough Council, Cardiff City Council, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Powys County Council, Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council and the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council is the Relevant Authority for the South Wales Central Area.
Coroners investigate all deaths where the cause is unknown, violent or unnatural or where the deceased has died whilst in state detention.
Not all deaths are reported to the Coroner. In most cases the deceased’s own doctor, or a hospital doctor who has been treating the deceased, is able to give a cause of death and issue a medical certificate.
There are many different circumstances in which a death must be reported to a Coroner (see examples of circumstances which require a referral).
Deaths are usually reported to the Coroner by the police or by a doctor called to the death. A doctor will also report a patient’s death if unexpected where the cause of death is unknown.
Whenever a death has been reported to the Coroner, the local Registrar of Births and Deaths must wait for the Coroner to finish his enquiries before the death can be registered. Paperwork will then be issued allowing for the funeral to proceed. In some cases, the Coroner may open an inquest which is a judicial inquiry into the death.
Other sections on this website explain the different possibilities more fully and the timescales you can expect. In all cases, the Coroner aims to disrupt families' funeral plans as little as possible, while making sure that the investigations are effective and complete.
Coroners and the Local Authority
Coroners are members of the judiciary and are not employed by the Local Authority. However, the Local Authority does fund the Coroner's service and the office staff are Local Authority employees.