The Medico-Legal Centre is purpose-built to provide facilities and services required for the investigation of sudden or unexpected death.
It comprises the offices and court of HM Coroner for South Yorkshire (West) District and the public mortuary. We provide the reception, mortuary services and Coroner’s support.
The Centre has a strong commitment to providing a high standard of service to the bereaved and is nationally and internationally recognised as a model of good practice in this field of work.
We are committed to dealing with the technical and legal side of the investigation of sudden death in a professional, dignified, and sympathetic manner.
HM Coroner for South Yorkshire West District is Christopher P Dorries OBE. He is based at the Public Mortuary and his officers can be called during office hours.
Role of the Coroner
The Coroner is an independent Judicial Officer, responsible only to the Crown, with a statutory duty to investigate sudden, violent or unexplained deaths. He/she must be legally or medically qualified.
About one third of all deaths are reported to the Coroner and of these, approximately 55% require a post-mortem examination. In the vast majority of cases the post-mortem will reveal a natural cause of death but around 12% (375+ per year locally) show an unnatural cause and require an inquest.
The majority of Inquests are held before the Coroner sitting alone. However, an Inquest must be heard before a jury (of between 7 and 11) if the death occurred in prison or police custody, in a works accident or on a railway.
By law, the inquest is restricted to establishing the deceased's identity, when and where he/she died and, most importantly, how the death occurred. The verdict cannot be framed in such a way as to indicate either criminal liability on the part of a named person or civil liability.
The Coroner's decision is set out in a formal record of the case called the 'Inquisition'. This states: the identity of the deceased; the medical cause of death; the time, place and circumstances at or in which the injury was sustained; and the conclusion as to the death.
The conclusion of the death is the Coroner's verdict on whether the death was suicide, accidental, natural causes etc. There is also an increasing use of the ‘narrative verdict’ which is a short factual statement of the coroner’s finding as to how the death occurred.
Suicide or unlawful killing must be proved beyond reasonable doubt and an 'open verdict' means that the evidence does not sufficiently disclose the full circumstances of the death, often because the intentions of the deceased remain unclear.
A verdict used increasingly in recent years, which often achieves wide publicity, is 'neglect'. This is either a verdict on its own or added to another verdict such as 'accidental death contributed to by neglect'.
In the Coroner's Court ‘neglect’ has a very specific and narrow definition, eg 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 the death.
Digital Autopsy is a non-invasive technique that involves the use of a CT scanner which scans the body and creates a 3D whole body digital image.
The scan images are available immediately and a Digital Autopsy report is then submitted to the Coroner as soon as possible.
If you would prefer your loved one to undergo a Digital Autopsy then please speak to the Coroner for further guidance.