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Deaths reported to the Coroner

Deaths are usually reported to the coroner by doctors and the police. The coroner may choose to instruct a Coroner’s Officer to make initial enquiries to decide what further action should be taken. You should be contacted within 3 working days.

A death would normally be reported to a Coroner if:

  • there is no doctor who can issue a medical certificate of cause of death
  • the deceased was not seen by the doctor issuing the medical certificate in the last 28 days, or after death
  • the cause of death is unknown after scrutiny by a medical examiner  
  • the cause of death is believed to be unnatural or suspicious
  • the death occurred during an operation or before recovery from an anaesthetic
  • the death was due to industrial disease or industrial poisoning
  • the death occurred within custody  

You are able to make representations to the Coroner to ask for a death to be investigated if you have reason to believe it should be considered unusual or suspicious.

What happens when a death has been reported

Once a death has been reported to the coroner, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages cannot go ahead with the death registration until the coroner has decided whether any further investigation is needed.

In the vast majority of cases, no further investigation is necessary, and the death registration can be completed, and a final death certificate produced. In some cases, a post-mortem will be necessary, or an inquest is required prior to final death registration.

Find further information on Registering a death and the inquest process.

Post-mortem examination  

A post-mortem is a medical examination of a body after death. A pathologist will perform a post-mortem examination and will supply a medical cause of death to HM Coroner, if possible. Sometimes further tests are required during this process, and the Coroner's Office will discuss these with you.  

You will be kept informed of the date and location of the post-mortem examination, but you cannot attend the post-mortem yourself.

You can ask for a doctor you trust to attend in your place. You will need to advise the Coroner's Office of your decision, and any expenses incurred by your own doctor or pathologist in attendance will fall to you.

The pathologist who performs the post-mortem will send an initial short report to the Coroner on the day of the examination. A final post-mortem report will be sent to the Coroner at a later date. You are welcome to request a copy of the final report from the Coroner’s Office, and this will be sent to you. 

Objections to post-mortem examinations and religious considerations

We know that some families object to an invasive post-mortem examination being carried out on their relative. We understand and respect the basis of these objections however we must also uphold the law and apply it fairly to everyone.

The Coroner has the authority to make the final decision and if necessary can request a post-mortem examination even if the family does not agree. This can be a very difficult time for you and your family, we will do all we can to support you and minimise any delay to your funeral arrangements.

You may wish to consult the following guidance sheets issued by the Chief Coroner for further information regarding post-mortem examinations and prioritising cases in general.

Chief Coroner Guidance No. 28 Report of Death to The Coroner: Decision Making And Expedited Decisions 

Chief Coroner Guidance No. 32 Post-mortem Examinations Including Second Post-mortem Examinations 

Appeals against the Coroner’s decision to order a post-mortem examination

Families can, if they wish, make representations to the Coroner in writing. This can be done by email or by letter. 

If you let us know you plan to do this, we will not start the post-mortem examination until the Coroner has looked at the further information you have given, and we have spoken to you about the reasons for the decision.

Non-invasive post-mortem examination

Limited scanning is undertaken in certain circumstances but not all with permission of the Coroner. If representations are made to the Coroner for a scan, this may incur a cost for you as a family, which will be discussed with you by the Coroners Office. 

In some circumstances where a medical cause of death cannot be established, an invasive post mortem examination is required following a medical scan.  

How to contact the Coroner

If you wish to speak to a Coroner's Officer about an existing case please call:   

Northampton Coroner’s Office 
Phone: 01604 526100 
Email: [email protected] 

The Senior Coroner for Northamptonshire is: 

Mrs Anne Pember 
The Guildhall 
St Giles' Square 
NN1 1DE  

Email: [email protected] 

Last updated 21 March 2024