HM Coroner for South Yorkshire West District is Christopher P Dorries OBE. He is based at the public mortuary within the Medico-Legal Centre.
The Coroner is an independent Judicial Officer, responsible only to the Crown. They have a statutory duty to investigate sudden, violent or unexplained deaths. They must be legally qualified.
The Coroner does not work for the Council or any other organisation. However, the law requires that we provide the Coroner with the facilities to carry out their work.
About 40% of all deaths are reported to a Coroner, often because the cause of death is not immediately known. Approximately half of reported deaths require some form of post-mortem examination and, in the vast majority of cases, this will reveal a natural cause of death. However, around 18% (600+ cases per year locally) show an unnatural cause of death and require an inquest.
Guide to Coroner investigations
If someone close to you has died and their death has been reported to the Coroner, you can find out more about the investigation process from the gov.uk website.
Digital Autopsy is a non-invasive technique that uses a CT scanner to create a 3D whole body digital image, which is considered by the Coroner’s pathologist alongside all other available evidence. The pathologist will then advise the Coroner if they believe the medical cause of death has been understood sufficiently, and if there is a need for a full invasive autopsy.
Record of Inquest
The Coroner's decision is set out in a formal document called the ‘Record of Inquest’. This states the identity of the deceased, the medical cause of death, the time and place of death and in what circumstances the deceased died. The form also records the court’s conclusion as to the death.
The conclusion as to the death (previously known as a verdict) categorises whether the death was suicidal, accidental, or caused by natural causes etc. It is also common to use a narrative conclusion which is a factual statement of the Coroner’s finding as to how the death occurred.
Suicide or unlawful killing conclusions must be proven beyond reasonable doubt, whereas other conclusions are returned on ‘the balance of probabilities’. The open conclusion, rarely used these days, means that the evidence does not sufficiently disclose the full circumstances in which a death occurred.
A conclusion which often achieves wider publicity is when a death has been contributed to by neglect. In the Coroner's court neglect has a very specific and narrow definition, it should not be confused with civil negligence. In the Coroner’s court it means that there was a gross failure to provide someone in a dependent position with adequate food, shelter or basic medical attention and that this led to their death.