Navigating your way through an inquest after you have lost a loved one can be a traumatic experience. You may need the support and guidance of expert inquest solicitors at your side to help you understand the inquest process, seek answers and ultimately justice.

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For a no-obligation discussion, call our specialist inquest solicitors today on 01642 247656 or use our contact form and we will call you back.

What is an Inquest?

An inquest is an investigation into a person’s death. The coroner and their office are responsible for the conduct of the inquest. Although an inquest is not a police investigation, there may be a separate police enquiry where there is a concern that the death may not have been from natural causes.

When is an Inquest Held?

An inquest can be held when a death is unexplained, sudden, or if the death is thought to be unnatural or violent. An inquest will always be held where a person died whilst in police custody or whilst being detained.

What is the Purpose of an Inquest?

An inquest is not a criminal investigation or a civil trial. The purpose of an inquest is to answer some very specific questions, namely:

  • Who was the deceased?
  • When did the deceased die?
  • Where did the deceased die?
  • How did the deceased die?

Although an inquest hearing is not a criminal prosecution or civil claim, the investigation and inquest can help relatives of a loved one gain a better understanding of the circumstances of the death and answer some of their questions about the circumstances surrounding the death.

Sometimes, an inquest will result in continued police investigation and charges, or a health and safety investigation or a civil claim, but that isn’t always the case. What the inquest and coroner will not do is blame a named suspect or an organisation for the death as that is outside their scope; that is for future criminal and/or civil proceedings.

Whether or not the inquest leads onto further investigation or proceedings can sometimes be helped by the right questions being asked at the hearing.

Who do Inquest Solicitors Help?

Inquest solicitors regularly help the partners, children or parents of a loved one or anyone considered to be a ‘properly interested person’ to play a role at the inquest.

A properly interested person can include someone involved in the death, such as the driver of a car, GP practice or nursing home where criticisms have been made of standards of care.

We are regularly asked to help where there is a concern that a death could have been prevented or there is a worry that the police may or may not prosecute. For example:

  • Where a person has taken their own life because of social media bullying or after the person was discharged from community mental health services or after an inpatient stay
  • Where there are health and safety concerns after a death in a workplace or in a public building
  • There is a fear that the death was caused by medical negligence on the part of a hospital
  • A concern that the death was contributed towards by an inability to get an appropriate level of care by a GP practice or because of an inadequate level of care at a residential home
  • Death occurred as a result of a road traffic accident and there is a worry that the police will not prosecute the driver at the highest level of offence or that they will do so because of family pressure

Our team understand that relatives who are trying to come to terms with the death of a loved one can feel overwhelmed by the thought of attending an inquest. As well as helping you gain a better understanding of the inquest process and role of the coroner, we can also represent you at the inquest. We can discuss whether you have questions and if you want those questions asked of witnesses at the inquest.

Our inquest solicitors can help you discover more about the circumstances surrounding a person’s death. You may not want to take things further with a police prosecution or civil claim, but you may want the coroner to fully investigate, make findings about the death and recommendations to try to avoid a similar situation where a death could either have been avoided, or at least taken place in better circumstances, such as recommendations on improved ambulance call-out times, A&E provision or availability of hospice care beds.

Do I have to pay for legal representation?

Unfortunately, there is no automatic public funding for a family’s legal costs at an inquest. However, public funding might be available depending on your financial circumstances and the particular nature of your loved one’s death.

Public funding for assistance in the preparatory stages of an inquest is often referred to as ‘legal help and assistance’ and is usually available if:

  • You fall within the financial threshold set by the Legal Aid Agency, or;
  • You exceed the financial threshold, but the inquest falls into a certain category of cases.

These will usually be:

  • Cases that engage Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the ‘right to life’).
    Article 2 will often apply to deaths that took place while the deceased was in the care or custody of the state, such as
    – while in prison;
    – while in police custody or following police contact;
    – while detained under the Mental Health Act 1983; or
    – while subject to an order depriving them of their liberty.
  • Cases that the coroner decides could engage Article 2.

Public funding to assist with advocacy and representation at an inquest hearing is often referred to as ‘legal aid’ and is usually only available if the case falls into the categories
specified at point 2 above.

If you are unsure whether you are eligible for free assistance, do not hesitate to contact a specialist solicitor who can provide you with further guidance. This firm would be happy to provide further information and assistance.

How Watson Woodhouse Can Help

We are here to help.

Call us for a FREE and confidential consultation with a specialist solicitor today on 01642 247656.

Alternatively, complete our online contact form and one of our solicitors will be in touch.

Watson Woodhouse Solicitors provides support to clients throughout England and Wales.

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