Coroners

Inquests will continue to be conducted as normal, in line with new government guidance and advice on social distancing during lockdown.

Attendance at court by families can be facilitated. This should be organised via your coroner’s officer as there are a number of strict conditions you must adhere to, including the wearing of a facemask in public areas. You also have the option of requesting an audio recording.

The Court remains open to the public with restrictions on how many people may attend any one inquest. If a member of the public would like further information about the inquest arrangements, please email us on coroner@reading.gov.uk.

Before you attend an inquest, please read COVID-19 information for people attending inquests

Members of the press may attend the court, please email coroner@reading.gov.uk in advance of attendance for further details..

Please note that all inquest details are subject to change at short notice, you should check this website regularly for up to date information about inquest times and other details.

Contact details

Due to staff working from home, the office telephone number is voicemail only. This voicemail is checked daily. If you have an urgent query, please email noting URGENT in the title and an officer will contact you.

Berkshire Coroners’ Office
Reading Town Hall
Blagrave Street
Reading RG1 1QH

Coroner@reading.gov.uk

0118 937 2300 

Phone lines are open 8am – 4.30pm Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays. Please note this may vary depending on officer availability; however, a voicemail facility is available and the office is also contactable by email.

Death referrals

Doctors’ referrals for the coroner’s office must be submitted online – make a referral.  Or use the paper form.

The rules for referrals and issuing MCCDs have been changed in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. For advice and information please refer to your LMC guidelines, or read the government’s guidance.

Covid-19 is an accepted cause of death and does not need to be referred to the Coroner unless another referral criteria is met.

If you are unsure of whether a death needs to be referred, please see the Notification of Deaths Regulations (including coronavirus advice).

Coroners

It is the duty of coroners to investigate deaths which are reported to them.

What a coroner investigates

Where deaths:

  • appear to be due to violence
  • are unnatural
  • are of sudden and of unknown cause
  • occur in legal custody.

The Berkshire Coroner is responsible for sudden deaths across the whole of Berkshire, and holds inquests at the Reading Town Hall.

The Treasure Act 1996

All finds of treasure must be reported to the county coroner within 14 days after the find was made, or it was identified as being treasure.

If you make a find you suspect to be treasure under the Act, please notify the Finds Liaison Officer for Berkshire (01635 519 397) for formal identification and notification to the coroner.

A coroner’s officer will be in touch to discuss your find and whether an inquest will be required.

Berkshire Coroners

The Senior Coroner for Berkshire is Mrs Heidi Connor.

The Senior Coroner is aided by her Assistant Coroners, Miss Alison McCormick and Mr Ian Wade QC.

Inquest List

Please see below link to check the date and time for our upcoming inquests:

Forthcoming inquests

What happens when a sudden death occurs in the community?

If there is an unexpected death in the community, this may require police attendance. In these instances, the coroner’s own contracted funeral directors will convey the deceased to the local mortuary whilst further enquiries are carried out.

Where police attendance is not required, or a death is believed likely to be natural and/or expected, the deceased may be taken directly into the care of the family’s chosen funeral director. Should a later transfer to a mortuary for post mortem be required, this will be arranged by the Coroner’s Office.

Initial inquiries

A coroner’s officer will initially contact the deceased’s registered GP or (treating hospital doctor if applicable) in order to establish whether there is known natural medical cause of death.

If the Doctor can provide a cause of death in their best belief and knowledge, this will be submitted to the coroner for consideration and a coroner’s officer will contact the family to ensure there are no concerns.

If acceptable, the coroner will request the Doctor to issue a MCCD (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death) to the family. Formal registration can then take place. If the deceased was resting in the hospital mortuary, authorisation will be given to ‘release’ the deceased to the family nominated funeral director.

Post mortems

If a cause of death cannot be established by a medical professional, the coroner will authorise a post mortem examination.

  • This examination will be carried out by a Consultant Histopathologist and it will take place at the hospital mortuary.
  • You have the right to be represented at the post mortem by a medical practitioner or another representative if you so wish.
  • You have the right to request a non-invasive post mortem.

Note: A non-invasive post mortem is only allowed at the explicit permission of the coroner and only on a case-by-case basis. This will incur additional costs to the family; this will require the deceased to be moved out of area; this may cause a delay in the release of the deceased; an invasive post mortem may still be required if the cause of death cannot be ascertained.

What happens after a post mortem?

A coroner’s officer will be in contact following the post mortem to advise on the cause of death or whether an investigation or inquest is required. 

If the death is due to natural causes, the coroner will authorise release of the deceased. The coroner will also issue paperwork to the relevant Registrar.

A family member will then be able to register the death and proceed with funeral arrangements. There will be no further involvement from the Coroner’s Office.

Investigations

If a cause of death cannot be found at post mortem, or the coroner wishes to make further enquiries into the death, an investigation will be opened.

The family will be informed, and interim death certificates will be issued in lieu of death certificates from the Registrar.

If the pathologist has requested additional histological or toxicological analysis, please note the cause of death may be pending for a number of months and the coroner’s office is unable to expedite this process.

If the cause of death is subsequently found to be natural, paperwork will be issued to the relevant register office and the family will be able to register the death. There will be no further involvement from the Coroner’s Office.

Inquests

Inquests are required when a person has died due to unnatural causes, or due to natural causes whilst in state detention.

Inquests are public enquiries with the coroner acting on behalf of the family to establish the four statutory facts of a person’s death:

  • Who it is that has passed away
  • When
  • Where
  • How they came by their death

The family will be informed of the statutory need for an inquest, and interim death certificates will be issued in lieu of death certificates from the Registrar.

Families will be kept updated as to when the inquest will take place and will be invited to attend if they wish.

Please notify your coroner’s officer if you intend to instruct legal representation.

For further information, please read the government ‘Guide to Coroner Services’ booklet.