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What is an Inquest?

An inquest is a court hearing conducted by a coroner strictly designed to investigate the cause and circumstances of single or multiple deaths to prevent a similar occurrence.

What makes an inquest unlike any other court case is that it is an inquiry rather than a trial. The Coroners job is to find out why a death occurred, not who was involved. Inquests do not require a jury and are often open to the public.

Inquests are not always necessary unless the circumstances involve:

  • A person who has died in custody;
  • A death has occurred while in care;
  • A death has occurred as a result of police operations;
  • Preventing further deaths due to systemic issues;
  • Doubt in the cause of a death;
  • The Attorney-General has requested the inquest;
  • The State Coroner has ordered an inquest; or
  • The District Court upholds an appeal against a coroner’s decision not to hold an inquest.
Once the coroner has identified who the person is and how their death occurred, they will write a report including recommendations to the Minister, public statutory authority or an entity that prevents the situation from happening again. The coroner’s findings can also be used in further trials.

Requesting an inquest

You can request an inquest by writing to the coroner, outlining why it would be in the public's interest. The coroner decide within six months though they may take longer if they need information from third parties. If your request is denied, you can make an application to the State Coroner or the District Court.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 1, 2021.

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